Nuit Blanche 2011 Toronto
Nuit Blanche Toronto 2011 is upon us. As has been the case since the all-night art affair's arrival in Toronto back in 2006, this year's edition will feature a bit of everything — some of which is bound to delight and some of which is bound to disappoint. But aside from the usual complaints about long line-ups and crowded exhibits, the sheer spectacle of the event makes it one of the most entertaining nights of the year, for art lovers and otherwise. If there's a key to getting the most out of what's on offer, it's probably to remember just that: the whole thing is one big performance, and there really isn't one right way to go about your night.
Having said that, it's always good to have a plan so that exciting exhibits aren't missed while waiting to have a look at others that may not prove as worthwhile as one initially thought. Towards that end, here's our guide to Nuit Blanche 2011 in Toronto. Along with the requisite information about transportation and mobile apps, we've highlighted exhibits that are sure to entertain and, in some cases, enrage. The event begins at 6:59 p.m. on October 1st and runs until dawn of the following day. Enjoy!
As was the case last year, organizers have kept the main exhibition projects along the Yonge-University subway line, with the independent projects scattered throughout the three zones. The TTC will be offering extended service throughout the event with the Bloor-Danforth subway line running all night from Keele to Woodbine and on the Yonge-University-Spadina line from St. Clair West to Eglinton. But, note well, the subway will be temporarily closed between 7:30am and 9am on Sunday, October 2nd.
Unlike certain cities that offer their public transit for free during their version of the festival, the TTC is offering a special night pass for the price of a day pass ($10). More information is available here. Also noteworthy and in repeat of last year is the fact that Yonge Street will be closed to vehicular traffic between Bloor and Front streets, turning it into one big promenade for the event.
WEB RESOURCES / MOBILE APPS
Again, not much has changed since last year as far web resources and mobile apps go. Along with offering a pared down mobile version of the main Nuit Blanche website, there are two primary (as in festival-approved) web tools to help organize your night. "My Night" is the festival's online personal itinerary planner, which allows users to "browse the online festival guide in advance, selecting exhibits of interest and creating a personalized, custom itinerary complete with maps, and descriptions. These itineraries can then be printed, or shared digitally via social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook."
The "Night Navigator" mobile app lets smartphone users who own iPhones and Blackberries to access transit information, read installation descriptions, recommend favourites, check which projects are popular, share photos of and comments on exhibits, and to access "My Night" to consult your personal itinerary. Perhaps curiously, there isn't an Android version (though the mobile site can be used instead).
Although not specifically Nuit Blanche-related, it'd also be a good idea to use one of the numerous TTC surface route predictor apps to help avoid waiting around for TTC vehicles. My favourite is Rocket Radar, but there are other good ones out there as well. One can also use the NextBus mobile site, which is free.
HIGHLIGHTED EXHIBITS FROM EACH ZONE
CITY HALL EXHIBIT — Flightpath
What was that I said about spectacle? Well, this is sure to fit the bill. The work of Usman Haque and Natalie Jeremijenko, as the title suggests, this interactive exhibit promises participants the experience of flying over Nathan Phillips Square. What exactly this means won't be known until people strap up on the apparatus and go for a ride. But, hey, it sure sounds exciting (famous last words?) We know that there will be "fly-lines" set up, and that there's limited capacity (i.e. get ready for unbearable lineups), but just how high one will be suspended might be key to the exhibits wow-factor. The bonus is that this looks to be a good one to play spectator as well as participant.
ZONE A — Restaging the Encounter
In the words of the curator: Of her zone, Candice Hopkins says "Restaging the Encounter attempts to capture the fleeting moment when the political become poetic. The works will mine historical moments to enable their reconsideration in the present and offer possibilities to re-write and re-perform history."
L'Ã©cho-l'eau — Richard Purdy
Surely one of the most intriguing exhibits on offer for 2011, Purdy will recreate a traditional log run in the MaRS Atrium. The interactive nature of L'Ã©cho-l'eau is likely less thrilling than one might initially imagine given the water's depth of one centimetre (though the reflections will surely be stoner-worthy), but viewers are nevertheless invited to part with their shoes and "wade" into the exhibit. Just push the thought of getting athlete's foot out of your mind. MaRS Discovery District, 101 College Street
The Police Station — Althea Thauberger
Ever wondered what's it's like to be arrested, but aren't particularly interested in doing what it takes to find out? Here's your chance to live vicariously through art! Thauberger will set up a fake police station complete with performance actors who will arrest random viewers and temporarily process and detain them. The best part? You get to keep your paperwork. Arrest me! Arrest me! 611 Yonge Street
Slow Falls Rising — Karen Henderson
Henderson's video installation that depicts an inverted and slow running Niagara Falls is likely to be a good one to hit up early in the night when your mind is fresh and your eyes not so tired. While the unique take on the action of the Falls will serve to defamiliarize the tourist attraction and get viewers thinking of its sublime characteristics, the speed of the water makes me think that it's also got major sleep-inducing potential. Victoria University, U of T — east side of building
Erratic — Germaine Koh
This exhibit involves the artist (and a few others) rolling a boulder down Yonge Street to the harbour. That sounds like it could be play up on the spectacle of Nuit Blanche, but in as much as that's true, the key to its success will be the size of the rock. If it's as small as the version in the mock-up photo, viewers will likely be disappointed. Size does matter, so let's hope that the scheduled duration of the performance indicates that it's a big one. Starts at Bloor Street at 7 pm, ends at the waterfront at 7 am
A City Sleepover — Jessica Rose
There's not much to say about this one except watch out for line ups! Having a slumber party in an abandoned subway station sounds like it could be an awesome collective experience, but with that will come high demand, and there's only so much space. Lower Bay Station
CFC Media Lab
Insofar as Nuit Blanche is all about highlighting installation based work, the CFC Media Lab exhibit(s) are always worth checking out. Not confined to one medium or strategy, look for the work that operates on both a visual and phonic level. Paying tribute to Marshall McLuhan this year, the theme is the collision of old and new technologies. Bata Shoe Museum
Limelight: Saturday night — Sans faÃ§on
In a sense this exhibit serves as the perfect metonym for Nuit Blanche itself. Take a couple of ordinary street lights and replace them with theatre spotlights and all of a sudden a portion of the streetscape is transformed into a platform for performance art that challenges the rigid distinction between artist and viewer. Grosvenor Street, just west of Yonge Street
Sonic Spaces (the kinetics of sound) — Shawn Pinchbeck
This sounds like it could be fun. Pichbeck's audio installation converts human movement into sounds via multichannel outputs. Sure to be a hit with kids, it might also be a kick to watch/listen to the cacophony produced by the less coordinated. While your up there, you can also check out Zack Settel and Mike Wozniewski's Sound Graffiti. Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie Street
ZONE B — The Future of the Present
In the words of the curator: Of her zone, Shirley Madill says "The Future of the Present presents work by artists who use new technologies to form a vocabulary for a non-pictorial art. The art projects in Nuit Blanche are connected through unique interplays between the spiritual, material, and social spheres. Whatever the scale, the physical or psychological interaction they invite has some form of intimacy achieved through technical illusion and artificiality.
Paparazzi Bots — Ken Rinaldo
This one is sure to activate people's vanity. Ken Rinaldo's paparazzi bots, which are made up of "multiple microprocessors, cameras, sensors, code and robotic actuators on a custom-built rolling platform," choose select viewers to photograph, thereby exalting them to "celebrity" status. Others are ignored. Tip: make sure you smile; the bots like that. The Eaton Centre (240 Yonge Street): Location #1 at Level One, Trinity Way; Location #2 at Albert Way
Through the Gorilla Glass — Spencer Rand, Patrick Svilans, Andrea Ling, Jonah Humphrey, GUILD
Another exhibit that brings together light, sound and movement, Gorilla Glass is a sculpture that allows viewers to interact with it by moving its mechanical arms, which when touched, emit waves of music and patterns of light. It might get old fast, but at least it sounds like a truly interactive experience. Oh, and it's bound to get some serious traffic based on its proximity to Flightpath. City Hall Roof Garden
Ride the Rocket, 2011 — Kurt Firla, Elliott Mealia, Po-Mo Inc
I really hope this one turns out as good as it sounds. Taking place on a stationary TTC streetcar, Ride the Rocket will use sound and video effects to give the illusion that "riders" are taking a trip to places where no streetcar has gone before. Caveat emptor: this could be a line-up magnet. 600 Bay Street
Residue — The Residue Group
This one could be a hit or miss — even more so than your average Nuit Blanche exhibit. Designed to recreate the experience of urban exploration, Residue might offer an exhilarating nighttime experience, or fall flat if the facades and props don't hold up to scrutiny. Having said that, the photographs on display might be worth the trip all on their own. 29 McCaul Street, Beaver Hall Gallery
The Heart Machine — Christine Irving and Interactive Art
It wouldn't be Nuit Blanche if there weren't some pyrotechnics, and Christine Irving has got it covered in a major way. Composed of four arteries, this exhibit will shoot up 25 foot flames when touched by viewers. What does it mean? Who cares, there's fire! 640 Bay Street (Parking Lot)
The Other Painting Competition — Paul Butler
To some degree the AGO is the last play anyone should go during Nuit Blanche, the idea of which is to get people out of galleries and onto the street. Be that as it may, this artist-run painting competition might appeal to those who are tired of all the light, video and sound installations. AGO, 317 Dundas Street West
The Futuristic Institute of Collective Happenings — Thom Sokoloski
Although the lack of an interactive component to this animated installation might make it less stimulating than other exhibits on offer, the look back at Futurism seems wholly appropriate for an event that in many ways is the product of these early 20th century challenges to Romantic (and Classic) conceptions of the artistic object. Also worth a look at the Distillery District are Conversation Piece, Lights Contacts, and of course, the all-night Food Truck Eats Festival. Distillery District, 60 Mill Street
McLuhan's Massage Parlour — Luc Courchesne and SAT
How do you take a book and turn it into a navigable space? We're about to find out, as Luc Courchesne and the Society for Arts and Technology stage McLuhan's famous text as an interactive exhibit in which the graphic elements of the printed page are no longer contained by the book's covers. To borrow a phrase from another 20th century thinker who challenged conventional ways of thinking, this installation plays with the idea that there
is nothing outside the text. 108 Chestnut Street, Toronto Ballroom, Metropolitan Hotel Toronto
Drawing with Frames — Group Exhibition
I suppose one always draws with his or her eyes in some way, but this exhibit makes this a literal proposition via eye-tracking software that projects eye movements onto a wall. A bit of background from the festival website: "inspired by the EyeWriter initiative, which designed a device that enables those who suffer from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) to draw with their eyes. This was originally invented for a famous graffiti artist, TEMPTONE, who was diagnosed with ALS yet still able to create art despite losing his ability to draw with his hands."
Parking Lot at North East corner of Dundas & Victoria
ZONE C — You had to go looking for it
In the words of the curator: Of his zone, Nicholas Brown says "You had to go looking for it invites us to transform and occupy Toronto's financial district. The neighbourhood lives and breathes during banker's hours -- its glass buildings, subterranean arcades and courtyards are offered up to those with the business to be there. This exhibition proposes forms of organization, communication, and labour that echo, invert and misuse the symbolic language of corporate capitalism."
Barricades — Jeremy Jansen and Niall McClelland
References to the G20 can be found all over this year's Nuit Blanche, but this is a particularly direct example. The three-work installation uses materials typically used to contain or block off the public during large-scale assemblies, but instead of performing their usual function, they're offered here as anti-barricades (despite the title). Divorced from this familiar context, viewers are likely to look at them in a new light. Commerce Court, 25 King Street West
Soon — Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard
It's difficult to know exactly how this one will play out, but the exhibit's stated interest in surveillance and spectacle certainly sound on point. Here's the curatorial blurb: "Something above Commerce Court is watching us and an inexplicable encounter unfolds. We're all implicated. Suspended in an otherworldly moment, sound and vision conspire to warp perception. There's nowhere to hide as things begin to break down. Something will happen. Soon." Excited yet? Commerce Court
We Are Water — The Do.Crew
Part of the fun of Nuit Blanche installations is that they often address serious political and cultural issues in novel and inventive ways. Case in point: this 1600 sq ft fashioned out of recycled pop cans will force viewers to navigate between its walls before arriving at its centre, where there's a fountain of fresh water into which pennies can be tossed. Just make sure your wish has something to do with sustainability! Trinity Bellwoods Park
City Mouse — Julia Hepburn
To the same degree that Nuit Blanche seeks to take art out of the conventional gallery circuit, Hepburn's installation at Scotia Plaza ask us to reconsider our relationship with the natural. By fashioning a pseudo forest in a bank building populated by animals who are in turn occupied by office workers, the artist explores "the displacement, alienation and transformation of our natural environment within the downtown core and in our imaginations." 40 King Street West, Scotia Plaza
Bone Dump — Maura Doyle
This is another exhibit in which scale will matter. A collection of bones lying in a back alley in the Financial District has many registers, including the tenuous nature of the global economy, but if the pile is on the small side, expect most viewers to peg the installation as a waste of time (even if it isn't). Alley between 10 and 18 King Street East
A Brief History of Rebellion — Sam Sutherland, Ashley Carter and Aaron Zorgel
This one's for Nirvana fans — or not. With a little help from other musicians, including viewers(!), the artists will play "Smells Like Teen Spirit" 144 consecutive times, giving new meaning to the idea of a song being played out. Part tribute to the 20th anniversary of Nevermind and part exercise in absurdity, I'm going to go ahead and say this one is highly recommended. If you want to get in on the fun, it might be best to put your name on the sign-in sheet early. Toronto Underground Cinema, 186 Spadina Avenue
Out of Site — All Nite with Mike Hansen
To the same degree that A Brief History of Rebellion explores the absurdity of playing a live song continuously throughout the night, Mike Hansen's mock late-night talk show will extend well beyond any reasonable duration (i.e. all night), and turn the conventions of the form on their head by interviewing average folk like you and me (apologies if you're reading Rachael McAdams, I don't mean you!). Tequila Bookworm, 512 Queen Street West
Intensity — John Notten
Tent City returns to Toronto in the Financial District! Featuring all the advertising hallmarks of a condo presentation centre, Notten's installation explores the degree to which shelter — one of our most basic needs — has been commodified. In so doing, "It offers a critique of the corporatization of shelter as it investigates this most fundamental human right. In it, the decadence of luxury condo living collides with the jarring realities of surviving in an urban tent city." Bay-Adelaide Centre, 333 Bay Street
Leitmotif — Parkdale BIA
Parkdale is set to be a hub for independent Nuit Blanche exhibits. Under the collective title of Leitmotif, the local BIA has organized 15 exhibits in cube rental trucks which will serve as performance and installation spaces that are spread across the neighbourhood from Dufferin Street to Sorauren Avenue. The specifics are yet to be revealed, but the idea has loads of promise! Info can be found at the Information Centre located at 1303 Queen Street West
The Tie-break, 2011 — Tibi Tibi Neuspiel and Geoffrey Pugen
A re-creation of the fourth set tie-break from the 1980 Wimbledon Men's Finals between BjÃ¶rn Borg and John McEnroe, the quality of this performative exhibit will rest upon artists Tibi Tibi Neuspiel and Geoffrey Pugen's tennis skills. Even if it doesn't work out, the exhibition photo is pure gold. 25 King Street West
The Way Up is the Way Down — Dennis Hale and Mike Sharpe
This one should be interesting if only to gauge just how annoying it's going to get. Composed of a floating balloon that emits a bell-like sound when viewers call a phone number, all I can imagine is a phone ringing off the hook above the Financial District. That's got some trippy apocalyptic undertones, but it could also get super tiresome. Floating above Bay Street at King Street West
The Happiness Project : In the House — Artist Bloc
Who could use an extra little bit of happiness in his or her life? Based on Charles Spearin's Juno award winning album The Happiness Project, Oz Studios invites viewers to take in a variety of musings on happiness that are set to orchestral music. In other words, the best time to hit this exhibit is late in the night when long line-ups have made you weary, your feet hurt, and you need a little pick-me-up. Oz Studios, 134 Ossington Avenue
Do you have a Nuit Blanche exhibit that you're particularly excited about? Let us know in the comments.
Photos courtesy of Nuit Blanche / City of Toronto
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