Sunday, September 2, 2007

Summer Retrospective 2.0: ROM Crystal Extravaganza

(Cross-posted with Mercer Union Hall)

Where else but
an awkwardly planned gala event can you bear witness to befuddled Canadian celebrities forced to read cliché-ridden scripts with Father Time as their comedic sidekicks? Well the opening of the Royal Ontario Museum's Lee-Chin Crystal building that's where. In what turned into a traffic-blocking pedestrian nightmare, a stage was erected in front of the building on Bloor to commemorate its completion, part of what has become an annual mess of questiony festivities (LuminaTO).

Those who able to get a decent view of the subsequent concert most likely stood in the 3-blocks long lineup for hours to gain access. I figure the majority of their day was spent gawking at the same, one building in a mixture of confused excitement and heat exhaustion when they could have simply waited a week to get an unfettered view. That particular day, however, they were treated to a whacky laser-light show, a slap-dash lineup of musicians who played one song a piece, and speeches by gentlemen whose income is in direct correlation to the pompous tone in which they spoke.

There was also an abysmal problem with crowd control (Handsome Tip: Take notes from the Montreal Jazz Festival. They have make-shift corridors for moving crowds easily past standing room at each stage. Simple as that.). I’ve never seen so many unhappy locals and confused, bickering tourists who had missed their queue. Many were stuck in spots where they couldn’t even see the stage, yet desperately wanted to validate their trip to Bloor by staring at the sound crew’s ass-cracks. Or the extensive hoists and scaffolding that supported them. Take your pick.

And although they were in the minority, some people seemed genuinely excited, but not for what the organizers had to offer. Deep in the ill-placed press section, I saw a woman turn to a man who looked suspiciously like the building’s namesake and remark, “Wow, this must be so exciting for you Michael!” He politely explained to her that he was Lee-Chin’s brother. And whether I heard that correctly or not, it stood out mostly in preference of an effective illustration. Sometimes people just like to be around shit that other people are making a big deal about. Even if it is a colossal waste of time and money.

The evening also provoked, “ooos” and “aahs” from the spectators when the projections and lights hit the building’s exterior. Lighting up the crystal is fancy-pants and all, but the structure should be able to impress on its own merits, and at the most with simple, adequate illumination. Projecting strange alien landscapes in colours that evoke an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical undermines the workmanship.

If some sing their own praises, the LuminaTO shoves them down your throat, smiling broadly as though your own gagging sounds are expressions of joy. The kind of disdain I set aside for expressions of complete ignorance can best be directed at the head spokesperson. His one pompous stand-out statement of the evening was, “Great cities are built on great civic projects,” in his address to the crowd. 

While that is true, and only even in part, this rather superficial undertaking was not only infantile in comparison to our city's past accomplishments, it held no scent of greatness. Oh ROM, if the AGO's opening doesn't churn out something better, I really will dive in the lake and never return.