Some Art is Really Weird

Saturday night my husband, Stephen, and I went to Nuit Blanche-a contemporary art event in Toronto with artistic installations set up around the city. These installations, the buildings that host them, and many a Starbucks, run until 5:30 in the morning, so it’s kind of a big deal. Every year I don’t understand it, every year I’m cold, and every year I still feel compelled to be a part of the throngs of diverse people crowding the downtown streets that have been shutdown for the night.

This year was no different, except this time I wore my grey beret because I’ve become way more artistic since last October. Making our way down a busy street, I noticed a police officer with braided pigtails who looked to be about twelve years old.

“Kind of young for law enforcement, isn’t she?” I asked my husband.

“No, that’s part of the art,” he said.

“What’s part of the art?”

“She is,” he said nodding at her, “She’s part of the art.”

Sure enough, a large poster detailing the installation explained that people dressed up as police officers would be fake arresting random people, based on certain unidentified characteristics, and then would be fake processing them in a fake police station. Having a couple of friends who work in the criminal justice system and do some version of this for a living, I had difficulty appreciating the artistic nature of this but in keeping with the work as a whole, I just faked it.

“Interesting,” I said, stroking my chin pensively.

Next we came upon a series of large portraits of sex dolls. Each print displayed a close-up of a girl you would never bring home to your mother, accompanied by a quote from the doll’s owner (boyfriend?) on the reverse. According to the artist’s blurb, he sought to capture the heart (penis?) of the growing community of men who have full-time relationships with sex dolls. I had no idea there was such a community or that they had such a proclivity for the arts but reading some of the quotes, I could understand the preference for plastic and vinyl. Women sounded awful!

“A doll never keeps you waiting,” said DollGuy82, “And they never break your heart.”

“You don’t have to worry about saying the right thing to a doll,” said BlowupLove.

Now that’s just silly. BlowupLove is setting an unreasonably high standard for himself. I never expect my husband to say the right thing. Case in point. We joined a big group of people crowded around a large spotlight in the middle of the road. The installation’s explanation invited people to do something in the bright light but the circle sat empty,with onlookers pushing for a better view. After some brave souls kissed one another and danced around to rousing applause I pulled Stephen to do the Dirty Dancing lift with me.

“But I can’t lift you up like that on the concrete,” he said.

“So now you think I’m fat?”

“Of course I don’t think you’re fat.”

“So what is it, I don’t look good enough for you? You don’t want to be seen with me?”

“You look fine!”

“Just ‘fine?'”

I stomped off to the closest coffee shop to drown my weight gain worries in a large vanilla bean latte. Emerging from the shop, my cup rattled in my hand from the vibrations of a loud beating sound. Moving towards the noise, we stopped to watch three men pound away at drums. Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump. This time I didn’t need to read the description. I knew that the continuous beat symbolized the impermanentness of the human body as it gives way to illness and age. Obviously.

Having now finished my treat for the night, I was ready to head home. Resting my head on Stephen’s shoulder as we sat on the subway, I wondered about the people behind these works. I marvelled at the confidence these artists had displayed. However strange or weird, these people devoted time and effort into something they believed in, something they thought worth showcasing. I, on the other hand, am plagued with self-doubt, especially when it comes to something as subjective as writing. Despite all my worrying and second guessing, how I turn every word over in my head and want to immediately delete absolutely every single thing that I write, I am comforted that at the very least I share something fundamental with other artists: devotion to a craft. I write because I can’t imagine doing anything else. I can’t bear the thought of doing anything else. Whether my work is good or not and whether I ever achieve my dream of publishing a book, I write because I love writing. Just like that photographer loves taking pictures of blowup sex dolls. It’s all the same, really, and that’s why I shouldn’t laugh.