Nuit Blanche Toronto 2011

The top 10 Nuit Blanche 2011 Toronto exhibits

The top 10 Toronto Nuit Blanche exhibits will, perhaps mercifully, draw our 2011 coverage to a close. Along with our photo and video posts, roundups for Zone A, Zone B and Zone C, and report from the Renegade Parade, it's nice to conclude with our overall favourite exhibits. Getting to the chance to see and experience the installations below reminded us what this whole all-night art thing is about in the first place — not going out and getting sloshed (though plenty of people did that), but engaging with a city that's been transformed into one big gallery space in which creative people do their best to entertain, provoke and delight. Not everything was perfect of course, but a big thanks goes out to all the artists who exhibited this year.

A Brief History of Rebellion (Sam Sutherland, Ashley Carter and Aaron Zorgel)

History Rebellion Nuit Blanche

One of the more talked about exhibitions of the evening, A Brief History of Rebellion transformed the Toronto Underground Cinema into a rock venue, then squished it through a time portal to 1991 when Nirvana rewrote what it meant to be an angry teenager. For 12 straight hours their classic anthem of teen angst - Smells Like Teen Spirit - was interpreted and reinterpreted by a slew of bands and fans. The brave could line up and take part, or you could sit in the crowd and munch on popcorn. Either way, it felt a little revolutionary. L.C. Photo by Jesse Milns

Heart Machine (Christine Irving)

Heart Machine Nuit Blanche 2011

There's not much else to say about the Heart Machine. One of the most popular places to warm up at Nuit Blanche 2011, it was as much a site of refuge as it was of exhilaration. Maybe it was the thick stink of weed in the air, but when the valves starting bursting flames in unison, I couldn't help but erupt into applause with the rest of my compatriots. D.F. Photo by Tony Chen

City Sleepover (Jessica Rose)

Lower Bay Station Nuit Blanche

Not surprisingly, the typical Nuit-Blancher's enjoyment of a City Sleepover was directly proportional to the length of the lineup outside. I arrived at 4 a.m. — which is to say that I thought it was awesome. Significantly thinned-out by then, the most wonderful discovery came when I stumbled upon droves of people still hanging around in the parked subways. Some were sleeping, others relaxing, and still others carrying on conversations about the nature of time and space. Despite the darkness, it was a bit voyeuristic and deliciously eerie. D.F. Photo by Derek Flack

Soon (Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard)

Soon Nuit Blanche

It's not an understatement to say that "Soon" transformed the square at Commerce Court into virtual movie set. It undeniably felt like something ominous was afoot as spotlights and smoke swirled and the sound of helicopters buzzed overhead. It was all rather apocalyptic, a little bit scary, and I didn't want to leave. While an apotheosis was held in reserve, something did happen: Toronto got a taste of what it'd be like to act in a vaguely futuristic Sci-Fi movie. D.F. Photo by Jesse Milns

Limelight: Saturday Night (Sans façon)

Limelight Nuit Blanche

Hands-down the best "exhibit" that I saw in Zone A was Limelight: Saturday Night. It was really nothing more than two spotlights shining down into the middle of the street at Yonge and Grosvenor, but its beauty was its simplicity. Essentially, the street corner was turned into a stage, and random people become the performers as they stepped into the light and did...well, whatever the hell they wanted. A large crowd was consistently on hand as they were treated to impromptu acts of performance art, acrobatics, and a 300+ pound man running through the light with his shirt off, screaming at the top of his lungs. B.S. Photo by Tom Ryaboi

Ride the Rocket (Kurt Firla, Elliott Mealia and Po-Mo Inc.)

Ride the Rocket

Regardless of how often we collectively like to complain about the TTC, there remains a passionate interest in the public transit system that keep us moving. That, no doubt, is why "Ride the Rocket" had huge line-ups for much of the night. Well, that and a really good promotional poster. Once inside, the effects were the opposite of the highly produced scene at "Soon," but it didn't matter: this was riding the rocket like it was actually a rocket, and the sheer lighthearted silliness of it all was just grand. D.F. Photo by Tony Chen

The Tie-Break (Tibi Tibi Neuspiel and Geoffrey Pugen)

Tie-Break Pugen

Yes, there were problems with sight-lines for the bulk of the night, and they could have found a better place to put the temporary tennis court, but the show that Tibi Tibi Neuspiel (Borg) and Geoffrey Pugen (McEnroe) was always entertaining and almost spectacularly ridiculous. It didn't matter if you were familiar with the match the two artists were trying to recreate, watching the boys sweat it out in their shorts on a cold October night was worth banging a few shoulders to get up to the front (sorry if I spilled your coffee, angry-looking dude). D.F. Photo by monkeyseemonkeypoo.

Through the Gorilla Glass (Spencer Rand, Patrick Svilans, Andrea Ling, Jonah Humphrey, and GUILD)

Nuit Blanche Gorilla Glass

The complete opposite of Flightpath, the other exhibit at City Hall, "Through the Gorilla Glass" never suffered brutal line-ups, tended to remain a jock-free zone most of the night, and had super helpful Nuit Blanche volunteers who, as one told me, were there "to help you get the most out of your interaction with the exhibit." Looking like a huge spine spread across the back of City Hall's roof garden, the swinging "vertebrae" out of which the installation was fashioned were mesmerizing to look at and challenging to manipulate in an orderly fashion. One of the night's subtle gems! D.F. Photo by Tony Chen

The Free Shop (Basil AlZeri)

Free Shop Nuit Blanche

A investigation into the nature of consumerism, wealth and ownership, but also loss, the Free Shop was one of those places early on Sunday morning when you realize that Nuit Blanche is pretty damn great for making things like this possible. Inspired by the artist's loss of half of his worldly possessions in a house fire, not all of these who passed by got lost in the consideration of their relationship with material goods, but pretty much everyone loved the idea of a bus shelter turned into a Nuit Blanche gift shop. D.F. Photo by athena113

Fly by Night (Orest Tataryn, Bruno Billio, Jason Dressler and Lars Dressler)

Fly By Night Nuit Blanche 2011

The tagline for Fly By Night, the Gladstone's exhibition at Nuit Blanche, was "brief moments and fleeting experiences in ephemeral environments," which is artspeak for "temporary art show" and could basically describe all of Nuit Blanche. But the vagueness in theme actually benefitted this show, opening it up to a diverse array of participants. Under one roof one could watch cabaret, sing Karaoke, participate in a knitting circle, share a secret with a stranger, or play voyeur--peeking through a peephole onto the mundane lives of others. L.C. Photo by pamlau

B.S. = Bryan Smith, D.F = Derek Flack, L.C. = Luke Champion

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