It’s no secret: right now, among our various cultural sectors troubling signs can readily be found. Stresses, fissures and cracks, intergenerational change and systemic failures – some chronicled elsewhere in this issue – feel as though they are starting to be as common as the wildfires that scourged the globe this past summer.
Emails from Cambodia
Earlier this year an email appeared in my inbox with an intriguing invitation. “Join us in celebrating Peter Chin’s last major work, featuring an international cast of dancers and musicians on June 23 and 24 at 8pm, and June 25 at 2pm at Harbourfront Centre Theatre.” The announcement continued, “trillionth i signifies the third eye and beyond, to the trillionth eye, in an embrace of endless ways of sensing, knowing and of being in the world…” and was signed off with “choreography and music composition by Peter Chin.”
Let’s start at the beginning. Trichy Sankaran was born on July 27, 1942 in Poovalur, Thiruchirappalli district of Tamil Nadu in southern India. Another significant date occurred 29 years later when the classically trained Indian drummer Sankaran took a momentous leap of faith across the globe, accepting a job teaching at the fledgling Music Department, York University. He arrived in 1971, retired in 2015. What he accomplished in between is the subject of the first part of this story, and the prequel to the second part.
White Night Roots
While some cite Paris’ 2001 Nuit Blanche as the concept’s ground zero, it likely had its roots in Helsinki in 1989; Helsinki’s nighttime festival of the arts, with all museums and galleries open “until at least midnight” proved to be contagious, steadily spreading to over a hundred of the world’s cities, including across Canada, including Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Halifax, Winnipeg and Saskatoon.
I well recall the buzz around Toronto’s premiere Nuit Blanche in 2006. I cut out the double-page downtown event map in NOW magazine to facilitate my bicycle-driven art crawl to well over a dozen events and installations. Dubbed Scotiabank Nuit Blanche for its title sponsor, it is today the City of Toronto’s baby, after the bank withdrew in 20125, saying the event no longer aligned with its sponsorship priorities. By then, it had “grown into one of the largest public art exhibitions in North America,” according to the city’s website. How large? In 2015 the city claimed in a promotional video that “Since the inaugural event, more than 9.5 million people explored 1,200 art projects by 4,500 artists.”