One of my favourite events of the year happened over the weekend — Nuit Blanche. It’s the time when we hit the streets in the middle of the night in search of art installations on display all over the city.
This year there were 110 works to see, with some of them set up along the waterfront for the first time. I loved the idea of being down there in the dark, so that’s where we planned to focus our time. However, the weather was really bad on Saturday — very windy, quite cool and rainy. As we set the alarm for 2am and went to bed at 10 pm, we were skeptical that we’d feel much like being along the water in such weather, so as I drifted off to sleep I planned a different route based on the map of sites I’d been looking at all week.
Nick woke up before the alarm, and I awoke to the whistle of the kettle. He was making some Sinner’s Tea to keep us warm on our adventure. As I came downstairs he told me that it was drizzling rain outside. Rain on Nuit Blanche hasn’t stopped us in the past (see 2013 here) and it wouldn’t stop us now, so I headed back up to put on a warm outfit which included two pairs of layered leggings, a long turtleneck sweater, and a cashmere v-neck over that. I stepped outside to have a look and the rain had stopped, so I skipped the raincoat and put on a denim jacket, in addition to wrapping a scarf around my neck, and finding a hat and gloves. My quick weather check also indicated that, while it was still quite windy, it was a relatively warm wind, so heading to the waterfront was on!
With a thermos of hot boozy tea tucked in Nick’s bike basket, we flipped on our safety lights, and rode out into the night.
(Aside – Given the news that a bike rider was seriously injured this morning in our neighbourhood, I should mention that we wear bike helmets when we ride, but decided not to for this because many of the main roads were closed to car traffic for the event, and we bypassed those that weren’t by taking quiet side streets.)
Being down beside the lake at 3 in the morning was a first for me — that in itself was pretty amazing.
The wind had whipped up whitecaps on the waves and rigging on the boats in dock rang and snapped like an art installation itself. Full disclosure : I thought the sound was, in fact, part of an exhibit, but Nick, who has spent a lot of time on boats told me they always sound like that in the wind.
(1) The first art piece we came upon was this series of wind socks, with brick patterns on them, bobbing and dancing around and inside the lobby of the Power Plant Art Gallery. It was called “Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!”
Note: I’ll leave the “official” description of each piece we saw at the bottom, with links to further information, if you’re interested.
There was also something inside the gallery but there was a long line-up so we decided to skip it. Instead we sat on some benches and had a sip of tea.
(2) A little further east was a donut shaped structure floating on the water. There was a ramp leading over to it and visitors were invited to walk inside it. It was called “Torus” and walking it was fun, if a little wobbly.
We lingered down near the water for a bit because it was so neat around there at night like that.
↑ Windy ↑
(3) Next we came to a video installation set up on a pedestrian ramp, on a huge fabric screen that had a fan behind it. It was called “Loveland”.
(4) Further along was met up with a moving exhibit – a human glacier. These people were rolling along the street, sort of tumbling over one another. I admired their resolve to do what had to be done in the name of art because it didn’t really look like it was overly comfortable. It was interesting to see happening though. It was called “Glaciology”.
At this point we decided to head north up Bay Street.
We stopped to see what was inside Union Station (Toronto’s train station).
(5) There we saw a display of huge hanging fabric pieces called “Pattern Study”.
There was also another thing there but we skipped it because of the line-up — (with 110 possible things to see we decided not to spend time waiting in any lines).
I took some pictures inside and out of the station because it’s very rare to be in there at night and without steams of people — this is undoubtedly the busiest area for foot traffic in the city during rush hour, since the subway, commuter trains, buses and regular passenger trains all convene around there. In fact, I see that Union Station is cited as the busiest transportation facility in all of Canada (Wiki).
↑ Monument of Multiculturism out front of Union Station
↑ The Royal York Hotel built in 1929 is across from the station.
From there we continued up Bay Street, which was eerily quiet.
(6) Between Wellington and King Street, the Design Exchange building was refaced by a video installation called “Les Bosquets”.
Nick had turned his bike around and was facing southward, when he told me he saw eyes. I looked and tried to see what he was seeing. I thought he was joking about the traffic lights looking like eyes. I didn’t get it, until suddenly, I saw them — a pair of huge blinking eyes. They were projected on a bridge we had ridden under a couple of blocks south — part of a piece called “The Eyes of the Bridge”. I didn’t take a picture of them, but I’m glad we happened to see them.
From there we continued north to Nathan Phillips Square out front of City Hall.
(7) To the east of City Hall there was an exhibit of compacted trash, called “There is No Away”. I’m not going to lie — while it was interesting seeing the trash, this piece brought an odoriferous element to the evening that I could have done without, lol. I didn’t stay to watch the film that went with it as it was being shown right in the thick of things, so to speak.
(8) The final thing we saw was a large installation in the square, comprised of hundreds of large poster-sized images of real people. They had had their picture taken in a photo-booth and then those pictures were printed up onsite. Then the pictures were glued to the surfaces of the square, although I think people were given the option to take their poster home, because quite a few people were carrying them around.
It was interesting to see but the line up to pick up your photo was long, so we didn’t take part.
By then it was 5:15 am and we’d been out for 3 hours, so we decided to call it a night. We could have stopped on the way home because there were a bunch of things on Spadina, but we didn’t because by then, our beds were calling us.
Nuit Blanche Twenty Fifteen was a very good time. In hindsight, as I usually do for this event, I wish I’d seen more. A minimal downside to this year is that the exhibits were all very far apart from one another (as opposed to previous years, where you could choose an area and see many pieces side by side.) We overheard quite a few complaints from people on foot who were tired of walking the long distances. I’m glad we were on our bikes but still didn’t feel like we’d seen enough.
A few displays were left up for the week, so I hope to get out to see those. See here for a list of the the exhibits that will stay up until October 12th.
Also, there were some exhibits that were so far removed that people didn’t bother making the trek out to see them. This was made evident by the fact that they were packing things up when we arrived, well before the supposed 7am finishing time. I felt sad for them because, based on all the gear they had, they’d put a lot of effort into their pieces.
Something else that we didn’t witness ourselves but that I read about on Sunday, is that there was trouble over at Dundas Square at around midnight, when a huge crowd had gathered and had a bit of a stand-off with police. There were no Nuit Blanche exhibits over there, and this type of thing could have happened regardless, however it probably happened because so many people were up and about at night like that.
I’ve also read as a follow-up that the main corporate sponsor of the event, Scotiabank, has pulled out, stating that Nuit Blanche no longer aligns with their sponsorship strategy (See the full story here. So at this point nobody is sure what will happen next year, but you can be certain that if the show does go on, I’ll be ready and willing to see it!
Thanks very much for checking out my post.
DETAILS about the exhibits we saw :
(1) Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!, 2015 – by Jon Sasaki
On the Waterfront Trail south of Queens Quay Terminal : Tall dancing inflatable smoke stacks congregate on Toronto’s waterfront, jittering and writhing on a shoreline once home to many such chimneys. Both whimsical and sinister, they appear like ghostly apparitions from this zone’s industrial past. More info here.
(2) Torus, 2015 – by Mary Mattingly
231 Queens Quay West : A large floating Torus on Lake Ontario directs our movement around a continuum, like the watery toroidal typology it rests upon. More info here.
(3) LOVELAND, 2009 – by Charles Stankievech
33 Harbour Square (Located on the pedestrian ramp.) : A large-scale video installation depicting an empty arctic landscape that gradually fills with purple smoke from a military grenade flowing across the Bering Sea—a site of increasing international contention over massive oil reserves. More info here.
(4): Glaciology, 2013/2015 – by Anandam Dance Theatre
Roaming on Lake Shore Boulevard East (Performers will travel Westward along Queens Quay to Lower Simcoe Street) : A human glacier slowly drifts through the city as a living landscape, continuously active for the full 12 hours. More info here.
(5) Pattern Study, 2015 – by Amanda McCavour
Great Hall – VIA Concourse Union Station : A textile collage that explores pattern, texture and line in space. Looking closely at the structures found in textiles, this work creates an immersive environment by expanding the scale of textile structures to the scale of architecture. More info here.
(6) Les Bosquets in Toronto, 2015 by JR
Design Exchange : Les Bosquets reveals portraits of young people from the housing projects around Paris. Art and social uproar interweave in a still image designed to challenge the widely accepted “cliché of the ghetto”. More info here.
Seen but I didn’t get a picture – The Eyes of the Bridge, 2015 – by JR
Bay Street & Front Street West : JR often asks people to make faces, but some prefer to pose silently, allowing us to read in their eyes everything they have been through. This project features the eyes of individuals who dream to be in Toronto. More info here.
(7) There Is No Away, 2015 by Sean Martindale, JP King
City Hall East side : This project demonstrates that “everything must go somewhere”, and thus there is no “away” to which things can be thrown. This installation will confront the public with the unimaginable cumulative mass of waste that is produced as a society. More info here
(8) Inside Out: Face to Face to Face, 2015 – by JR
City Hall : Participants will be invited on the night of, to come face-to-face at City Hall and make a statement with their profile. This work puts the image back in the hands of the public in order for them to be seen and heard. More info here.