I’ve been around the event block many, many times in this city and these days it takes a lot to impress me. Luminato’s Big Bang Bash and the Yves Saint Laurent Opening Night Party at the Hearn Generating Station did just that last night. It was a combination of a spectacular venue and major nostalgia that took hold of me and never let go.
I love Luminato. It’s been a great addition to the Toronto arts scene. Anticipation was high for the after I received the press release letting the world know that the Hearn Generating Station would be the location for this year’s fundraising gala. I didn’t know anything about the Hearn Generating Station at the time but clarity happened once I read over the words “The one-of-a-kind venue has never before been used for an event like this, of this magnitude, but glimpses of the facility have been seen in the popular films, Pacific Rim and Robocop.” I just watched the horrible Robocop remake the day before. I knew the movie was filmed in Toronto but I had no idea The Hearn was location of one of the memorable battle scenes. The Hearn was one of the best things in the movie to be honest and now I knew its name. Even better, I was going to get to drink cold beers in its cavernous space.
The Richard L. Hearn Generating Station is located in the Toronto Port Lands. It opened in 1951 and burned coal that was transported via the St. Lawrence Seaway. In the 70s the plant was converted to natural gas and continued until it stopped power production in 1983. The plant played supporting roles in energy production till 1991. There were two major attempts to buy the plant where one group wanted to turn it into a large hockey based sports center and another group that wanted to turn it into a movie studio. Both options fell through but the plant still occasionally shows up in movies.
The Big Bang Bash fundraising dinner had many of the Toronto’s influential benefactors, artists, politicians, sponsors and guest taking in the Berlin Underground theme. Table settings recreated the Berlin wall complete with graffiti and cinderblocks. Jorn Weisbrodt, Artistic Director of Luminato Festival had this to say about The Hearn:
“The moment I walked into the Hearn Generating Station I knew I wanted to do something in this space. It is full of possibilities. It reminded me of the days when I moved to Berlin, just a couple of years after the wall came down. Every week there was a different club opening in an amazing underground location and a few weeks later it disappeared or grew bigger and bigger. The Hearn space asks to be filled with ideas and I love the idea of juxtaposing the glamour of a big gala with the rawness but grandeur of the space. It reminds me of Piranesi’s Carceri etchings. I am so grateful to Paul Vaughan and everyone at Studios of America to let us play in the space.â€
I didn’t attend the fancy dinner but Isabella Rossellini did! She’s here performing Green Porno at the festival. After the dinner the Luminato and Yves Saint Laurent Opening Night Party started. Like everyone who didn’t drive, I took at taxi. It was a really crappy ride. My driver was a dick to be honest, honking and picking fights with other drivers. I also had to break out driving instructions on my phone so we could find the place. To top it all off, he didn’t have change.
All those frustrations sort of melted away when the huge smokestack came into view and the expansive plant grew larger. A wave of nostalgia hit me and I was taken back to my rave days. I went to a lot of raves in 1991 â€“ 1993 and one of the most memorable was held at some factory in the west end. I wish I could remember where it was but I was still in high school and living in Richmond Hill at the time. I had no concept of downtown. We met a shuttle bus at Union station and they whisked us off to this random large factory to party and dance our asses off.
The Hearn brought back those feelings with a vengeance. I felt like a 18 year old again minus the minus the hallucinations. The Hearn dwarfed that factory. It is vast, so vast. 650 thousand cubic metres of space cannot be accurately described. It can fit 12 Parthenons inside! You could lose yourself staring upwards into its cavernous space. The space is in a state of decay but it’s beautiful. Spotlights and colours gave guests glimpses into the dark recesses outside of the party area. Photos don’t do it justice. I’ve never had an inkling for being an urban explorer but I had an almost impossible urge to start climbing any stair or rafter possible. I want a higher vantage point. What hidden secrets did the depths of The Hearn hold for those brave enough? Chatter throughout the night revolved around the insurance price tag and the fact that a concrete floor was poured a couple weeks before just for this event.
YSL had beauty stations where guests could try out the latest makeup and there was a contest for a Saint Laurent handbag which I didn’t win. Previews for the new Yves Saint Laurent movie and YSL ads repeated on big screens throughout the night. Hot Pop Factory (http://www.hotpopfactory.com/) had a booth showing off their 3D printing skills. Guests walked away with laser printed leather bracelets and polymer brooches.
The Luminato and Yves Saint Laurent Opening Night Party didn’t beat the rave on the dancing front. A few of us took advantage of the DJ and dance floor but I couldn’t help wonder how amazing it would have been if Toronto was a dancing city. Despite the very Toronto no dancing thing, The Hearn took me to a place that I didn’t think was possible in Toronto. I felt like I was attending some super exclusive party in London or New York, places that would take advantage of a beautiful, thought provoking space like The Hearn. My hope is that this party sparks some more interest in the space and that someone wants to see it make a cultural contribution to the city like Wychwood Barns, The Distillery District and Evergreen Brick Works.
I guess I should mention my outfit. We were warned about the space ahead of time and I forgot flats and dressed like it was fall. I did the typical Torontonian black with my custom Danier Dress and punched it up with colour using a Gap moto jacket and Kara Ross handbag. Of course, my 3.1 Phillip Lim Chelsea boots were on my feet.
Luminato, I’ve fallen in love with The Hearn. I went on a major research spree and found some really great links that should you check out for more information and photos.
Ride My Pony Photography Â» Hearn Power Station
images: George Pimentel Photography