All-Night Contemporary Art Things at Nuit Blanche 2011
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All-Night Contemporary Art Things at Nuit Blanche 2011

City Mouse (2011) by Julia Hepburn, whose work will be in Nuit Blanche’s Zone C this year. Photo courtesy of Nuit Blanche.

Love it or hate it (we can’t even make up our own minds), the annual all-night contemporary art invasion that is Scotiabank Nuit Blanche returns for the sixth time this fall, happening from sunset on October 1 ’til sunrise.
Today the City of Toronto released details of the evening’s programming, which will unleash 134 light, sound, photography, sculpture, film, interactive, performance, and who-knows-what-else installations onto the streets of Toronto, created by more than 500 local, national, and international artists. So—whether or not you thought it was fun last year to stroke your ego and your chin while you mused with your friends about what giant inflatable clown heads have to say about modern society, or if you thought it was infuriating to swim through the crowds in the Eaton Centre while teens shouted and stumbled around Queen West after telling their parents they were out “for the art”—here’s what’s cropping up when the sun goes down at this year’s Nuit Blanche.

Like last year’s performance/light piece with Daniel Lanois, Nathan Phillips Square will be a hotspot once again as the centre piece of the entire evening—Flightpath Toronto by U.K.-based architect/artist Usman Haque and New York engineer/artist Natalie Jeremijenko is an interactive exhibit letting Torontonians experience the possibility of urban flight. With limited capacity, expect long lineups for commuters wishing to experience this utopia that’s based on an eco-friendly, free, and TTC-less mode of urban transportation.
Zone A (Downtown North) will be curated by Candice Hopkins under the theme of Restaging the Encounter, filled with works that will “mine historical moments to enable their reconsideration in the present and offer possibilities to re-write and re-perform history,” exploring the concepts of revolution and utopia in the city. See Richard Purdy transform the MaRS Building into a traditional 19th-century log run in L’écho-l’eau, featuring a technique he’s been developing for three decades that uses an inch of water to reflect our traditional views of nature and literally turn them upside down. Also, Vancouver artist Germaine Koh is going to roll a boulder down Yonge Street all the way to the Harbourfront.

From Zone B, Christine Irving & Interactive Arts, The Heart Machine (2010). Photo by Ian Grindall, courtesy of Nuit Blanche.

In the inspiration of Marshall McLuhan, curator Shirley Madill is turning Zone B (Downtown Core) into The Future of the Present, a landscape created with technologies of light, sound, interaction, and illusion. With TIFF 2011 already come and gone by October 1, Ken Rinaldo’s Paparazzi Bots will let us, Toronto’s plebeians, feel the glory of the red carpet with sensored robots seeking to fulfill their one mission—to snap a photo of anyone and everyone (at least anyone and everyone who’s smiling). And back from its premiere at 2010’s Burning Man Festival, Toronto artist Christine Irving is bringing her pyrotechnic flame-throwing sculpture The Heart Machine to Bay Street to explore urban activism, and heartburn, on a whole new level.
Zone C (Downtown South / West) is particularly timely, focusing solely on the Financial District in You had to go looking for it, curated by Nicholas Brown. Throughout the night, the maze of arcades and courtyards will become a Land of Narnia of sorts, which Torontonians can discover and transform as it recovers from its recent traumatic events. Representing the conflict between risk and safety in the marketplace, Tibi Tibi Neuspiel and Geoffrey Pugen are going head-to-head in Commerce Court with The Tie-break, a recreation of the 1980 Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Singles Finals between Björn Borg and John McEnroe, ESPN’s “most riveting episode in the sport’s history.” Meanwhile, in Monster Jam, Vancouver’s Jacob Gleeson uses his footage of audience rebellion at a monster truck rally to portray a post-apocalyptic spectacle.
Though the purpose of Nuit Blanche is to make contemporary art free and publicly accessible to all Torontonians, a lot of it still pretty abstract and, well, weird. So, hopefully to help with that, organizers have created the Nuit Talks series, featuring talks with the zones’ curators and sneak previews of exhibits and installations in this year’s event.
Though we don’t think Nuit Blanche is perfect, since the inaugural event in 2006 it has generated over $70 million for Toronto, or so Rob Ford says. So in this time of budget cutbacks, and with the arts especially under scrutiny, we’re glad to hear that this contemporary art evening, and all the “things” that go with it, will be making Toronto residents and visitors stay up way too late once again this fall.