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The best and worst City Hall exhibits Nuit Blanche 2012

Posted by Ab Velasco / October 1, 2012

Nuit Blanche 2012 City HallThe brilliantly imagined and executed "Museum For the End of the World" — curated at City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square by Janine Marchessault and Michael Prokopow — provided participants a 4D experience of the end of days. It was very effective, because the works felt cohesive and truly complemented, strengthened, and enhanced each other.

Nuit Blanche 2012The works in the underground garage were the highlights. My friends and I entered at 7:30pm - shortly before the long lines began. A fun house-like "Museum For the End of the World" lit sign greeted us. By the time we got to the bottom of the blood-red lit ramp and were greeted by a crash scene, the mood had darkened. Phone reception had waned and people slowly became anonymous silhouettes.

Nuit Blanche 2012The curators smartly utilized lighting to set the tone in the emptied lot, which could not have been a more unexpected but perfect artist's canvas. A few feet beyond the crash scene, under eerie purple lighting, a grotesque slab of raw meat laid on the ground — an abandoned grocery cart and walker a few feet behind it — confirming my worst fears: Lady Gaga had been raptured.

Nuit Blanche 2012Douglas Coupland's "Museum of the Rapture" was one of the evening's scene stealers, offering three living tableaux set pieces: a classroom, Christmas-time living room, and office. They were Tim Burton-esque in their creepy cool factor. You almost forgot that you were in a garage as you took it all in.

Nuit Blanche 2012The findings of a trailer that belonged to a paranoid man driven by the fear of catastrophe were showcased in Iris Häussler's "Ou Topos." The man had collected and wrapped over 1,200 canned foods in lead foil, a sample of which were shown in display cases. This exhibit felt like a found footage Blair Witch-esque horror film brought to life. I found its simplicity very effective.

Nuit Blanche 2012It wasn't all doom and gloom, however. Jean Michel Crettaz and Mark-David Hosale's "Quasar 2.0: Star Incubator" presented a hope for renewal. The interactive light and sound installation - resembling a space-like creature plopped into the garage - signalled that amidst catastrophe, a new planet might be born. Artsy fartsy, yada-yada aside, it was just damn cool to look it and was a great photo op.

Nuit Blanche 2012Thankfully the curators didn't take themselves way too seriously as evidenced by the charming "Postcards from the End" by Sarah Beck that ended the garage trek. Participants became part of the postcard set pieces and could snap their own photo souvenir from the end times. I stood in line behind a mother whose child was dressed in a Winnie the Pooh hoodie and felt nothing but delight.

There were a few misses. The "Symposium - Until The End of The World" - featuring different lecturers at Council Chambers - took away the experiential element. In the garage, Dana Claxton's "The Uplifting" video installation felt expected and uninspired, especially since this is the seventh Nuit Blanche.

Nuit Blanche Toronto 2012At the heart of Nathan Phillips Square, Christine Davis' "World Without Sun" projection installation provided a trippy visual and aural piece, but I couldn't help but feel that the prime real estate could've been better utilized. Given the end of the world motif, I felt the atmosphere was sedated and subdued.

2012_09_29_nuit_blanche-projection.jpegAs my group exited the garage and made our way down Bay to Queen, I looked up at Tania Mouraud's "Once Upon A Time" video projection on the City Hall's East Tower. I reflected on why I love apocalyptic films and dystopian novels so much. It's because they make one imagine what it must be like for the surviving characters. For an hour, the City Hall exhibition provided just that kind of geeky escapism. I wouldn't be surprised if the underground garage continues to be a canvas for future years to come.

Photos by Irina No



Jer / October 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm
Looking forward to seeing more reports from Nuit Blanche. I missed a lot so I would like to hear about other experiences especially the further out ones (I regret missing Bickford (sp?) park from what I have seen so far/read about). Curious about Wychwood barns, and other spots away from the drunk crowds
Syncros / October 1, 2012 at 12:58 pm
Did you see the rave (416-788-9663) on the side of the exit ramp from the underground? I was hoping it was going to be something you could get close to, not just peer over a railing at. They should have directed you to map points and made you find your way to its secret location. I didn't get to City Hall until 4am but I found the above-ground pieces lacking after what I've seen there in previous years. Blinkenlights was a highlight that comes to mind.
Cyril Sneer / October 1, 2012 at 01:03 pm
I absolutely loved the underground garage portion. You guys should have checked it out around 5:00am instead of 7:30pm. Way more atmospheric, a totally different vibe. And if you stuck around to sunrise, you would have seen the whole space filled with dry ice, and with some trippy electronic music broadcast overtop, a spontaneous end-of-days space-rave. An amazing surreal experience.
Brian / October 1, 2012 at 01:14 pm
nuit blanche, so shit
another year, another let-down
Colin Smillie / October 1, 2012 at 01:46 pm
Surprised you skipped the video in the interior of City Hall, which was one of the most impressive projected videos I've ever seen. The sinking effect in sync with the videos looping was amazing...

The underground exhibit was the best I've ever seen at Nuit Blanche, the "Failed Experiments" section was also missed, with the simple seed images in reflective tubes...
kingmo / October 1, 2012 at 02:09 pm
the "Civilization (Megaplex)" video projection on the funnel-shaped column of the City Hall Rotunda was really cool. it was done by Michael Brambilla (USA). Iconic cinematic visuals of human civilisation, heaven and hell, were looped and set to Stravinsky's epic "Rite of Spring" symphony and made the whole thing trippy and hypnotic.
zizekmania / October 2, 2012 at 02:41 pm
Are you kidding about the symposium? Obviously you didn't see it. Zizek was in top form, enormously thought-provoking and entertaining. Definitely the highlight of the entire event.
Style web-site / October 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm
Great way of observing things - I'm a bit more of a black and white individual, myself
Kay / October 12, 2012 at 12:20 pm
What a very good blog post and certainly helped clear my head a little / February 5, 2013 at 07:38 am
I hope you don't mind me visiting and saying thanks to you for the post - it truly helped
Penny / March 5, 2013 at 11:49 am
Excellent post but I am not sure that I agree. However, folks consider me difficult at
the best of times! Thanks.
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