Our Middle of the Night Adventure : Nuit Blanche 2017

As I say every year when I write about this all-night art show, Nuit Blanche is one of my favourite times of the year. I’ll never tire of getting up in the middle of the night and heading out to see what amazing experiences hundreds of artists, from Toronto and around the world, have set up for our pleasure.

My only complaint is that it’s impossible to see it all. This year there were 90 exhibits scattered around downtown. It’s a really popular event and some areas get very crowded between 10 and 1, so we like to go to sleep early and set the alarm for 2am. Doing so, allows us to avoid any line-ups, however, we have found that some things are all wrapped up by the time we arrive. It’s a trade-off, but being one who avoids crowded situations if I can, early morning works.

Here’s what we saw : (We rode our bikes which is how we covered as much ground as we did.)

Looking north from the corner of Richmond and Bay, a series of images were were being projected onto the clock tower at Old City Hall — “The Many Large Houses of the Ghosts” by Marianne Nicolson.

From there we went north-west to Nathan Phillips Square.

Unlike previous years, they chose not to use the pond, so it sat as a calmly sparkling background. Over in the south-western corner of the square there was a hot-air balloon, which was giving the lucky people who’d previously won a “golden ticket” rides up to view the square from above.

Within a fenced area was a group of 21 separate installations, which together were called “Monument to the Century of Revolutions“, curated by Nato Thompson.

It was described this way: “The artwork by the Russian collective Chto Delat, consists of an array of shipping containers producing a small village; a veritable mass shipped revolution that unpacks into a world. Roughly half of the containers will take on a different moment in revolutionary history ranging from the Mexican Revolution, Yugoslavia and China to May ’68, Cuba, and to Zapatista. The other half will house local artist activist groups touching on issues that address Indigenous peoples, migrant workers, sex workers rights, queer activism, and to revolutions dedicated to African diaspora, and much more.

More details, with a description of each separate piece can be found on The Nuit Blanche website here. (I’m sorry that I didn’t keep track of what was what when I took these pictures. There was so much there!)

From there we headed up to Queen’s Park where the whole circle around the grounds were closed to traffic. Here, there were 7 pieces, which together were called “Taking to the Streets“, curated by Barbara Fischer. (If you go to the site you can click the arrows and find details on each of the pieces.)

↑ On the left is a photo of a sound performance called “Automobile”, by Lebanese artist Joseph Namy. It involved a group of cars with souped-up sounds systems, amplifying the choices of a series of guest “sound selectors”.

On the right is the four story scaffolding used to present the performance piece “Where Once Stood a Bandstand for Cruising and Shelter”, by Toronto artist Hazel Meyer. Here, participants climbed to the top and unfurled and dropped banners printed with lines of a poem. (Unfortunately we we too late to see the show, but the scaffolding was impressive.) ↑

On the other side of the loop where is was very quiet, we got off our bikes as we approached a beautiful sight; there, in a dimly lit part of the road, was a group of horses, calmly munching on hay. It was an intervention piece called “Horses”.

[The utmost of sensitive treatment was used with the horses. To quote the description : “This project has been designed with the greatest care and consideration for the horses. They are able to rest and roam while accompanied by trained staff who are dedicated to their safety and well-being. Trained staff and volunteers will be responsible for managing audience and crowd flow.“]

Next, we rode over to the AGO. I hadn’t read the details beforehand, but knew there was something going on in Walker Court, so we decided I’d go in to take a quick look, while Nick waited outside. It turned out that the performance piece called “The Forest” by Will Kwan, had ended, but a relaxing soundscape continued, called “Digital Echo”. (There was another section to explore as well but, with Nick waiting outside, I skipped it.)

From there we headed over to the alleyway south of Queen West and west of Spadina. This is part of a long lane-way where graffiti artists are encouraged to paint. I love it there normally, (and previously posted about it here and here), but loved it more that night, as it had been transformed by a Light Installation called “Disturbing Graffiti“, created by Studio F Minus.

That brought our Nuit Blanche to an end. I won’t lie … I could easily have kept right on going, as we’d only seen about a third of the art, but Nick was ready to go home. It was 5am, so I couldn’t blame him, and so we called in a night (morning!).

It was a great time that is sadly over for another year. We extend much gratitude to the city, the volunteers, the sponsors and the artists, for the gift of this wonderful event.

Thanks for reading,
xo loulou