Last year’s I Promise It Will Always Be This Way, which saw mascots clown around Lamport Stadium. Photo by Miles Storey/Torontoist.
Whatever you think of Nuit Blanche, in Toronto there’s really no other nuit like it. The “free all-night contemporary art thing,” this year happening from sunset on Saturday, October 3 to sunrise on Sunday, October 4, has earned its fair share of ambivalence over its previous three years—not because the idea itself is not a fantastic one, and not because the event itself isn’t intermittently enthralling and exciting and cool, but because people are naturally critical of something that we all deservedly hold to very high standards. If you’re willing to brave a disappointment or two, a lot of walking, and (this year) a bit of rain, though, Nuit Blanche remains one of the best ways to experience a different side of Toronto.
If you’re so inclined, of course, you can experience it with us: We’re gonna be up all nuit, putting updates from contributors and readers (like you!) onto the south wall of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and into a liveblog running simultaneously, for a project we’re calling Blanche Slate.
And while wandering is a big part of the fun of Nuit Blanche, there are more tools than ever to help you navigate. The TTC has opened up all-night service from Keele to Woodbine on the Bloor-Danforth line and St. Clair West to Eglinton on the Yonge-University line, with additional service on select surface routes. A day pass, good all night, will set you back $9. (Full details are here.) Believe us that you won’t want to drive that night, not only because it’ll be impossible to get anywhere, but because if you did drive, you wouldn’t be able to discover all the various off-the-grid events that aren’t officially part of Nuit Blanche, like Les Rues Des Refuses‘ alternate slate of activities and Newmindspace’s Nuit Blanche Renegade Parade. This year, there’s also an official Nuit Blanche iPhone/Blackberry app, Night Navigator, that lets its users rate exhibits and see what others have rated it, find the exhibit nearest to them, and take photos of an exhibit to figure out what it is. Even the city’s largest signpost, our CN Tower, is getting fancied up for the evening.
Far be it from us to dictate what you wander towards, but we do have a few projects we’d recommend for your itinerary. After the fold, staffers Kasandra Bracken, Jamie Bradburn, Hamutal Dotan, Kaori Furue, Quin Parker, Brenda Petroff, Steve Kupferman, and Stephen Michalowicz share their choices for twenty-five of the best, weirdest, and most interesting destinations of the night.
We predict that this will be the installation everyone loves to hate. Beautiful Light (above) is just four seven-metre-square alphanumeric characters suspended sixty-five feet in the air, after all. D. A. Therrien’s light show will be called gimmicky, banal, and a waste of one of Nuit Blanche’s most prominent staging areas. It will also be the one everyone asks you if you saw, so make sure you’ve got a good answer.
Locking strangers together in a confined space often sparks conflict, as Sartre or any bus driver will tell you, so where better than the Toronto Coach Terminal to host a blindfolded cage wrestling match? Battle Royal is by artist/fighter Shaun El C. Leonardo, who will pit himself against nineteen of Canada’s top professional wrestlers in a winner-takes-all bout of fisticuffs. It’s inspired by the cage fights described in Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man. From 7 p.m., members of the audience will be invited between the bars “to feel the intimidation and potential aggression,” and during the evening the great outdoor fight will gradually increase in magnitude until there is only one man left on two legs, who will presumably win the remaining seat on the 1 a.m. sleeper to Sudbury. The whole event is unscripted, which makes a refreshing change for this kind of thing.
The unsinkable Cathy Gordon—who you might remember from her public divorce ceremony in 2007 where she crawled for eight hours on her hands and knees in her wedding dress, starting at Kensington Market and ending with a skinny dip in Lake Ontario—is back with BOUNCING BRIDE: What Goes Down Must Go Up, an all-night endurance piece at The Music Gallery at Queen and John where she will jump on a trampoline atop a ten-foot-high wedding cake from 7 p.m.–7 a.m. Participants can join her up there (one at a time), lounge inside the bottom layer of the cake, or request songs from the wedding DJ while reading positive divorce stories projected from the cake sculpture. Through this piece, Gordon hopes to “expose the untold ‘happy side’ of divorce, which is still regarded negatively in our society.” How can we resist?
Jeff Koons’s silver Rabbit Balloon (above), a fifty-foot rabbit-shaped balloon commissioned for the 81st Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2007, will float above spectators inside the Eaton Centre. The gigantic rabbit, reflective and buoyant, was modeled after the artist’s celebrated 1986 stainless-steel sculpture Rabbit, itself a cast of a small inflatable bunny. Originally intended to embody the collapse of high culture through the juxtaposition of a luxurious, automobile-like chrome with the thrall of an everyday, dollar-store blow-up bunny, the metallic piece still retains its iconic appeal and social relevance. The balloon literally produces a reinterpretation of its surrounding environment. Like looking into a carnival mirror, the Eaton Centre and curious Nuit Blanche–goers will appear warped and distorted until they barely resemble reality.
They say you are what you wear, and the same holds true in reference to one’s shoes. Diaspora Dialogues and Bata Shoe Museum collaborate to capture time and memories as experienced by our shoes in Camellia Koo’s multimedia installation, Where Have You Been In These Shoes? Visitors are invited to have their shoes photographed to contribute to a growing photo display along with a short, self-reflective text describing the journeys of each pair shoes. On-the-fly poetry and spoken word performances will be generated by an on-site poet in response to interesting shoe perspectives.
Ice Queen: Glacial Retreat Dress Tent (above) is another high-concept art piece combining photography, performance, and installation. A woman perched atop a ten-foot skirt, bundled up to brave freezing cold glacial weather, will be moving about in a conceptual dance style called Butoh. The slow, controlled, playful movements will help invite visitors inside her tent dress to explore glacial imagery, weather data, and global warming information. This installation by Cara Spooner, Robin Lasser, and Adrienne Pao represents the political and societal impact of global warming in the Arctic from the female perspective.
So you think you want to dance? It’s a Saturday night fit for being out on the town, but you feel you can’t miss out on the all-night arts? That’s okay, ‘cause with Nuit Blanche 3.0, you can multitask! At the Dance Dance Evolution! exhibit, you are both the artist, and the exhibit—even if “shake your hips” translates to “gyrate awkwardly” for you. The Toronto Reference Library is breaking their own whisper-only rules for one night, turning from a place for books and boring to a hoppin’ joint for, among others, Hip Hop (10 p.m.), Mambo (3 a.m.), and even Bollywood (midnight). With instructors showcasing a brand new dance each hour, it’s like an all-night cram session, just like in your college days—except this time, it’s your hips, not your dominant hand doing all the work. Rep it, T-R-L!
One key question for anyone venturing to Nuit Blanche: where to start? Do you want to dive right in and join the mob of people congregating in the busiest zones downtown? Or, say, if you have memories of climbing up on the giant rock on Cumberland Street and seeing a solid, unmoving mass of humanity that looked like a scene from a disaster movie, do you want to start in a quieter, less frenzied area of the city? If you’re looking for a relaxing way to ease into the evening, you could sample the exhibits in Cabbagetown. The program hints at a continuation of last year’s mix of installations and community festivities, with promises of an underground stream surfacing, an interactive video art cube, dance, and films.
Cinematheque Ontario is great throughout the year. Go to their screening room at the AGO’s Jackman Hall during normal operating hours and not only are you virtually guaranteed an excellent film, but you might experience the Where’s Waldo–esque thrill of spotting Atom Egoyan in line (he’s even got the round glasses). For Nuit Blanche, the Cinematheque has something special planned. They’re going to be projecting films by three pioneers of the film medium: Georges Méliès and brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière. Méliès directed the oft-referenced 1902 short Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon), and Auguste and Louis Lumière made that infamous recording of a train arriving at a station—the one that supposedly caused the world’s first movie audience to flee in terror, for fear of being crushed. The project’s official description also hints at a “live performance,” and we can only imagine what that might end up being. In any case, you could certainly do much worse during your night on the town than a quick glimpse at the birth of an industry that lives and breathes in this city even today. It’ll build character. Do it for Egoyan.
We’ve been excited about this one for months. Space Becomes the Instrument (above) will reverse the standard positioning of audience and performer, as Nuit Blanche attendees will stand upon the stage while performers are located in the seating areas. Their instrument will be Massey Hall itself: Thirty-metre-long piano wires will be strung across the space and attached to “vibrating electrical coils” that the performers will pull. Which means that not only are you switching places with the performers, you’re actually going to be inside the instrument they’re playing. Nuit Blanche pieces have been criticized in the past for not making the best use of the spaces in which they are installed. Creator Gordon Monahan is making up for it in a very big way.
In celebration of the four hundredth anniversary of Galileo’s discoveries, St. Thomas’s Anglican Church is recreating the universe. Through a Glass Darkly will feature a 3D projection of the evolution of the universe, holograms of cells and galaxies, an interactive telescope hosted by the University of Toronto’s Department of Astronomy, and the work of dozens of other artists and musicians. According to its designers, the purpose of the exhibition is to recognize “Galileo’s work and the subsequent discoveries he spawned, while reminding us that despite technological advances, our knowledge of the Universe is still limited.” Hopefully the universe will grace us with clear skies.
Graffiti Research Lab is going to Pwn the Wall on Nuit Blanche. The cross-Canadian collaborative team is debuting bombIR, which is an “infrared-LED equipped spray can that allows writers to physically paint with light.” In the ongoing battle between graffiti artists and those who revile their work as visual pollution, painting with light should provide at least one night’s respite.
Bring a cocktail straw and some mixer to the Commerce Court building at 25 King Street West and visit the Vodka Pool (above). Artist Dan Mihaltianu’s giant puddle of opaque booze on the floor of this financial institution puns on the idea of “liquidity.” Some will think the way that he’s poured out perfectly good liquor to be an Absolut disgrace. But he’s making a statement on how alcohol is often used as currency and traded as a commodity, and it’s not hard to visualize because the brand of eighty-proof he’s used is as shiny and black as crude oil. (Tasha Yar had better avoid this exhibit.) By the way, the event is billed as “suitable for all ages,” so let’s hope the OPP doesn’t try to cook Mihaltianu’s Grey Goose.
No exhibit could be better suited thematically to Nuit Blanche than “Insomnia” at 401 Richmond, a collection of works in various media (sculpture, video, etc.) by more than fifty local artists that focuses on the pain, terror, and wonder of sleepless nights. In its fourth successful year, the show is an efficient stop for tired Nuit Blanchers who can see many artists’ work at once, in addition to the five other exhibits taking place at 401 Richmond. This year’s show promises to display pieces evoking “nightmares to midnight marauders to burning the candle at both ends.”
If green houses, red hotels, and the threat of going to jail is your thing, the Toronto Stock Exchange should be one of your stops, as Iain Baxter presents a live edition of everyone’s favourite real estate game, Monopoly, called Monopoly With Real Money (above). Originally staged as a performance piece in 1973, the 2009 version will feature local luminaries passing go and collecting two hundred dollars…two hundred real dollars. Among those vying to own Boardwalk are local chefs, comedians, eggheads, real estate moguls, and a few other players you may recognize. Will it highlight issues related to economic problems, or will you root for whoever wins Boardwalk?
Through the darkness, hundreds of blinking windows will animate the façade of a vacant, twenty-eight-storey condominium building in Concord CityPlace. Safe as Houses—a dated investing term used to describe the security of investing in one’s primary residence—is the inspiration for the appropriately titled light installation by Adrian Göllner. Each of the six hundred rooms of the tower will feature a flashing construction beacon. The sparkling facade will reflect the interchangeability of transparency and permanence in condominium residences. How permanent is architecture when it is constructed entirely of a near-invisible material? How safe is an investment in a “house” of which identical copies are popping up all over town? This piece will provoke its audience to explore these issues as light patterns reveal and conceal their supporting infrastructure.
A carnival on Bay Street, run by “recently downsized businesspeople.” Yes! Winnipeg artists Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan are promising us two fully functional midway rides, in the dead center of the city’s financial heart, for their exhibition, Wild Ride (above). Their artist’s statement tries to position the project as a kind of metaphor for economic collapse and resurgence, which is all well and good. But let us repeat the salient feature once more, in case you skimmed over it the first time: Free. Rides. You might want to hold off on the drinks until after you hit this one. The fun might be metaphorical, but the puke? Someone’s going to have to clean that up.
If you’re looking for some Nuit Blanche–style exercise, then we suggest heading on over to Denise Ing’s 12 Hours of Power, at the fountain in Berczy Park. Using bicycles provided by Livegreen Toronto, attendees will have the opportunity to see if their pedal power can generate enough electricity to run the installation’s water and light show. According to Ing, “12 Hours of Power will literally and figuratively electrify Berczy Park.” Spandex biking shorts are not required, unless you really want to shock the park.
Ah, you gotta love recessions. Almost everyone can sympathize with the desperation. How else would you find yourself attending a free, mathematics-intense lecture on How to Win the Lottery? (above) In this exhibit, Brooklyn-based artist Melissa Brown spills her very scientific, and sometimes psychic, secrets about manipulating your own Lotto 6/49 stub in your favour. Has she won the lottery yet? No. But is she a lot closer than you are to doing so? Probably. Just thinking about the possibilities has got us wielding our wallets and ready to hit the nearest convenience store for a (better) chance at a way out of financial crisis—’cause even that’s a little more reliable than Stephen Harper’s plan. And if you have no luck with the lotto, or even scratch cards, you can still put them to semi-good use. Brown’s turned her losses into our visual win! Her lottery ticket collages, viewable on her website, are like vibrant kaleidoscopes of chance and opportunity. And no, this one’s not sponsored by the OLG.
Navigating the sardine-like masses at Nuit Blanche can be reason enough to stay at home planted in front of PVR. But at least most people who crowd your path are willing to apologize for accidentally plodding on it. If, on King West, however, some mysterious soul in a solid-coloured, shapely outfit blocks your way, be wary to accept their apology—it might not be as sincere as you think. Maria Legault’s The Apology Project (above) puts fifty-five people in brown paper-bag dresses smack-dab in your path as a human blockade in the Liberty Market Building Atrium Corridor. And while they will apologize multiple times—obnoxiously even—for their inconvenience, they’re not learning much from their mistakes. For twelve hours, the paper-bag wall will portray passive-aggressiveness, with many “I’m sorry”s, but no signs of repentance. Kind of like your roommate who begs forgiveness weekly for borrowing toilet paper, but never buys any herself (you owe me, by the way!).
Fresh from her triumphant Fringe show, 36 Little Plays About Hopeless Girls, Nika Mistruzzi (actor, dancer, artist, and co-founder of Birdtown and Swanville collective) and co-collaborator Matt King (integrated media artist and musician) are taking over Queen Street Laundry at Queen and Palmerston and turning the dryers into spinning kaleidoscopes for Laundromat Kaleidoscope. One of the many great things about Nuit Blanche, which this show accomplishes so charmingly, is bringing art into everyday spaces, not just galleries and museums. We can just see sleepy art enthusiasts toward the end of the night sitting on the floor, curling up, and dozing to these pretty, swirling images.
Nite Lite, Nite Lite…environmental messages come to life! Alexandra González’s Nite Lite takes its inspiration from the classic children’s toy, Lite Brite, albeit on a much larger scale. The installation’s theme is environmental awareness, and in keeping with that message, all of the screen’s materials are made out of “re-purposed materials,” including the coloured pegs, which are made out of recycled water bottles. Throughout the night, the screen will display facts about environmental sustainability and the long-term consequences of cheap disposable plastics. We recommend leaving the Evian at home.
“How do we create shelter when our resources don’t make sense?” This will be the question posed in the parking lot at the Metro store on 100 Lynn Williams Street. Take Shelter (above), by the One Off Collective, encourages you to build your own lakeshore condo out of cardboard boxes and canned food. The thinking behind the artwork is that although you may construct a den Colin and Justin would be proud of, the materials are impermanent, and so are municipal solutions to homelessness. You can also take or give non-perishable food—any left will be donated to the Fort York Food Bank. The guilt you might feel about taking this food for yourself is another part of the exhibit, but if you swipe cans of things nobody will ever eat you can come out with a clean conscience.
Twofold, by GALTstudio, has a couple things going for it. First, there’s the completely inscrutable artist’s statement that gives virtually no indication of what the project will actually consist of. We like surprises. And then there’s the accompanying picture, which shows what appears to be some kind of ghostly, rainbow-coloured mesh undulating over the heads of a crowd of people—and a dog. It’s hard to tell, with the available information, whether this is a literal floating rainbow mesh, or whether it’s merely a graphical representation of what twofold will feel like for the people and dogs who choose to visit it. Either way, it seems like a potentially good time.
A night’s worth of walking tends to build your appetite. The smell of food roasting over an open fire may be enough to lure you towards the “hobo utopia” Tom Dean aims to create with FIRE AND SAUSAGE: Small Mercies (above) in a Liberty Village parking lot. The artist hopes to foster an environment where, after some economic/catastrophic event, people are willing to share items and “count our mercies”…which in this case means food cooked over barrels. Did we mention the post-apocalyptic sausages and beverages are courtesy of Jamie Kennedy? If these don’t satisfy your tummy, Metro’s just down the road…
All images courtesy Nuit Blanche and their respective artists.
All maps by Marc Lostracco/Torontoist.