Suddenly this summer

One of the things that always surprises me is how sudden it feels when the 4 hour long 2nd String Quartet by Morton Feldman ends. And just like that, five years of working in Toronto for the Luminato Festival suddenly end. June 30 was my last day.

Jul 5, 2016 | BY: Jorn Weisbrodt

One of the things that always surprises me is how sudden it feels when the 4 hour long 2nd String Quartet by Morton Feldman ends. And just like that, five years of working in Toronto for the Luminato Festival suddenly end. June 30 was my last day.
Jorn Weisbrodt.
Photo by Jonathan Castellino.

What happened? To me what happened in those five years has everything to do with what happened during the 17 days of the 2016 festival. That might be a surprise for those who feel that the 10th edition of the Luminato Festival was so different from all previous ones. Some journalists said that this year was a breakthrough, that it was a rebirth. I am happy about all of that but before you give birth, you are pregnant, even volcanic eruptions have long preparation periods, that might be invisible to our eyes but there is stuff happening beneath the surface.

To me, since coming to Luminato I have tried to define what its identity is. Or more simply put, I’ve tried to answer the question: What is the DNA of the festival? What is the one rule that you can trace everything we do back to? In my opinion since day one that has been the idea of “adventurous art and ideas in adventurous places”. And probably this year we nailed it in every respect by defining the ultimate “adventurous space”: the Hearn Generating Station.

When things end, one often starts to think about how they started.

I remembered that before I got this job at Luminato I was asked to write a document outlining my vision for the festival. I am not sure if anyone read the entire thing as it was pretty long. I had been to Toronto only once or twice prior. I found the below paragraph in there which I thought would be interesting to end with somehow.
“One of the oldest forms of festivals were the performances of the Greek tragedies. In late March or early April three playwrights were competing against each other with a tetralogy of plays that they wrote for the occasion. There was very little repertoire, the audience wanted new plays every time. To see something that one has seen before seemed a very odd idea. These tetralogies consisted of three tragedies and one satyr play. The satyr play was performed on the last day. The open air theaters in Greece held up to 12000 people which represented an entire population of a city as it was compulsory for citizens to attend these festivals. To me it has always been a dream to create these kind of events where city life is transformed into cultural or theatrical life. In the future I see a home such as a Greek theater for the Luminato Festival. It could be a stage constructed into the lake of Toronto one of its most beautiful and most unusual natural assets of the city with an amphitheatrical audience on the shore, a theater that would be unique in the world. It would require extraordinary artists to create something for this stage. Just as the border between land and water that this theater would span would literally become the bridge between life and art that a festival can create. People go to Bayreuth because its festival hall has a unique acoustics, they travel to Salzburg because they want to experience the unique festival atmosphere of the Felsenreitschule, they go to Santa Fe because opera interacts with the vastness and greatness of nature. They experience something unique. The coliseum in Rome, Greek Theaters must have had the same attraction on people. When we visit them today we feel something of the greatness of these venues. Toronto has to be able to create these venues as well.”

It occurred to me when rereading this that the Hearn very much fits a lot of the ideas outlined in the above. It did feel that an entire village or town came to see it. There were thousands of people who came down to a building they hardly knew existed and were blown away by it. Urban experts believe thousands of people will live in the Portlands in the next 20 years when this amazing piece of land right next to downtown Toronto and on Lake Ontario will be fully developed. And the people who came to Luminato this year were really the people of Toronto.
People in the Hearn.
Photo by Jonathan Castellino.

There is no subway or much public transport that comes to the Hearn (although our shuttle bus from Union Station was highly popular) but it felt that the people who did come were as diverse as a ride in Toronto’s subway shows you. From families with children to older Asian couples, Middle Eastern hipsters, gay couples, third, second or first generation immigrants, everyone seemed to come to check out the Hearn, the amazing space we made our home for 17 days. Many stayed longer and were drawn in by the various artistic expressions that they encountered.
Le Pavillon.
Photo by Jonathan Castellino.

Many came to get one of the uber-coveted spots in Le Pavillon, John Bil and Fred Morin’s traditional French bistro, dreamt into the control room of the Hearn. I am sorry that not more could actually taste the incredibly delicious food and soak in that unique atmosphere but I promise having peeked behind those doors many times, they worked hard to satisfy and accommodate as many customers as they could.
Hearn Music Stage.
Photo by Jonathan Castellino.

I think everyone saw that the Hearn could be like a Bayreuth Festival Hall, the Santa Fe opera, it could become a destination where people come because of the building, because it is so unique and different, because it is the only place in the world where you can see things in a certain way. And it is a building that could be all about Toronto, about the future, about the 21st century, one that is built out of the diversity of this city.
Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Photo by Jonathan Castellino.

To me the most important aspect of our residency at the Hearn was that it was not exclusively about Luminato, not about one organization building another fortress, but that we were one of over 25 cultural institutions who animated the space. To me the TSO, Younger than Beyonce Gallery, OCAD, Tafelmusik, Yes Yes Y’All, TIFF, the NFB and all the other partners, were just as important. That is what made the space rich and interesting, that is what brought audiences together rather than separating them because in a normal environment you have to make a choice: do I go to TIFF, do I go to Roy Thomson Hall to see the TSO, do I go to Regent Park to see a show by Younger than Beyonce. At the Hearn you could do it all and did not have to go anywhere. We did it all around you.
Luminato Team

It is incredible what the team has done, what hundreds of volunteers, Luminato employees, contractors, artists, have done. We turned on the Hearn and we turned on Toronto! Thank you for these wonderful 17 days. And I hope the next 17, 170, 1700 days for Luminato, the Hearn and the Portlands are yet to come.

Bye Bye for now from me. This is it! Farewell! Auf Wiedersehen!
Jorn Weisbrodt, outgoing Artistic Director

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