Christof Migone pulls an all-nighter

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - 10:08am
Carolyn Wong

Christof Migone, the director/curator of U of T Mississauga's Blackwood Gallery has been given a rare opportunity: to select and oversee the presentation of 10 contemporary works of art in an exhibit that spans Toronto's entire downtown core, lasts less than 12 hours and could be seen by more than a million viewers.

As one of four curators selected for this year's Nuit Blanche, the free contemporary art exhibit that has become one of Toronto's biggest events, Migone certainly has his work cut out for him.

Migone, also a lecturer in the Department of Visual Studies at U of T Mississauga, will curate the exhibit Should I Stay or Should I Go in the Financial District (Yonge Street from Queen to Front) on Saturday, October 2. The exhibit consists of 10 contemporary art projects commissioned by Migone.

It is an immense challenge - that is what makes it so exciting, he says of his task as a Nuit Blanche curator. There's a lot of gambles and guesswork.

The scale of the event combined with the short time period (6:57 pm to sunrise) and the outdoor, and often unusual, settings will make for an interesting viewing experience for the public.
Although rehearsals can be held throughout the week, the artists cannot start setting up for their installations, sculptures and performances until Friday night.

I will be touring the sites, making sure the artists are happy and the projects are turning out the way we envisioned. During the event itself, I will need to pay attention [to all of the projects] and maintain the level of quality of the projects, Migone says.

Although Nuit Blanche is by far the largest exhibit he has curated, Migone has had a taste of what being involved with this kind of event is like. Last year, the Blackwood Gallery presented the official U of T art project for Nuit Blanche called Drop Out at Hart House.

Two years ago, Migone joined the Blackwood Gallery as both its director and curator. As director, he manages the gallery's staff and funding as well as sets its long-term growth strategy. As curator, he develops the vision for the gallery's programming, ensuring that it fulfills the gallery's mandate, which is to offer a contemporary art presence at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

Migone, a multidisciplinary artist and writer, has curated a number of events including stuttermouthface (2002), Disquiet (2005), START (2007) and STOP (2008). His installations have been exhibited at the Banff Centre, Rotterdam Film Festival, Gallery 101, Art Lab, eyelevel gallery, Forest City Gallery, Studio 5 Beekman, Mercer Union and CCS Bard.

Shortly after Migone settled into his role at the Blackwood Gallery, the City of Toronto invited him to submit a proposal for the 2010 Nuit Blanche event. The concept that he came up with explores the ideas of coming and going, stillness and motion, not just in the wider context of urban life but also in the context of Nuit Blanche itself.

I proposed a concept that is self-reflexive. For anyone who has been at Nuit Blanche, they are faced with a very simple decision - should I stay here or should I move on? he explains.

Between lengthy line-ups, scheduled performances and the fact that the next installation is only a few steps away, the question to stay put or continue on one's way is an inherent part of the Nuit Blanche experience.

This conundrum has drawn criticism from some who say that Nuit Blanche has grown too big, too fast.

Migone says he likes to remain optimistic about what the event has become. It is hard to argue against presenting exciting artists to a wider public. Nuit Blanche introduces people to the kind of art that is usually only found in museums and galleries. By all means these institutions should be supported, and hopefully Nuit Blanche engenders a lasting interest in contemporary art amongst a crowd that has had little to no exposure to it prior to this event.

He is even turning the all-nighter into an assignment for the students in his Introduction to Curatorial Practice course. They have been asked to create a critical portrait of Nuit Blanche, incorporating audio and visual recordings of their experience during the event.

Nuit Blanche, which is universally translated as ‘Sleepless Night', was first held in Paris in 2002. Its mandate is to make contemporary art accessible to large audiences, while encouraging dialogue, engagement and celebration within the community. Five years ago, Toronto became the first city in North America to fully replicate the Paris model. The event is now hosted in several other cities around the world including Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Halifax, Madrid, Montreal, New York City and Tokyo.

[Toronto's] Nuit Blanche has grown to be one of the most successful versions in the world, says Migone. It filled a void in the cultural landscape and its scale has had a coalescing effect. How long this can be maintained without imploding is another question.