Nuit Blanche 2011.
October 7, 2011 § Leave a comment
By its very title and stated intent, Nuit Blanche seems like a tall order. It is a challenge to both our understanding of light versus dark as well as a question put to our definition of ‘art’, pushing viewers to experience work outside the confines of a gallery. Whether the invited artists made the most of the opportunity is definitely up for discussion…
In the financial core of the city especially, artists took advantage of the urban setting and created impressively large-scale works. One of the more prominent installations of the night was FLUXe, a street level projection at Scotia Plaza, (designed by Steve Di Lorenzo with nine featured artists), where people digitally projected generic patterns onto a massive screen at the base of Scotiabank tower. Though exciting in an immediate sort of way, it was commercial and ultimately uninspiring. The images produced were reminiscent of a screen saver – swirling and intricate, but with no real symbolism or meaning.
What was more interesting, and understated, was the projection of slowly flashing lights directly above the FLUXe installation. This was part of Intensity – a comment on city living conditions by artist John Notten. Rather than completely obscuring the building (as FLUXe did), the light installation subtly emphasized the arguably non-descript Scotiabank facade. This less intrusive installation seemed more in the spirit of Nuit Blanche. Notten was able to create a subtle, yet provocative piece that addressed something meaningful within its city context. Intensity took advantage of its setting without completely masking it, and was something that would not have worked anywhere but outdoors in downtown Toronto.
Where better to find a contemporary art display with as vast a range than Toronto’s citywide art show Nuit Blanche. The event yet again lived up to its reputation with its amazing array of art works. It targeted a wide-range of audiences, so that all could enjoy this fascinating and wondrous experience. It took place on Saturday October 1, lasting from dusk till dawn. Comprised of geographical zones A, B, and C, each one brought a different unique aspect of Toronto’s art sphere to the public.
Zone C, home to most of the city’s prominent galleries, held the vast majority of the event’s independent projects. The gallery district of Queen West was particularly characteristic of the city’s desire to showcase its art. Galleries opened their doors to the public and some even brought exhibitions into the streets. The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) projected Benny Nemorfsky Ramsay and Pascal Lièvre’s entertaining music video meets recruitment advertisement, “Patriotic” from their exhibit ¡Patria o Libertad! outside the gallery.
From Spadina to Jameson Ave. one could see graffiti artists in mid-creation, while interactive student-run displays like Stephanie Cormier and Camille Turner’s The Life Long Burning Question Project could be found at LeVack Block on 88 Ossignton Ave. That installation featured postcards with existential questions that could be answered and mailed.
Zone C also presented renegade works by prominent Toronto artists who were not part of the night’s program. Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak set up their unofficial installation “Lacuna” in the store window of the soon-to-open Joe Fresh at the corner of Queen and Portland. With three simple words, the artists evoked the history of the district and reminded us of our right to vote.
The frenetic buzz surrounding Nuit Blanche 2011, Toronto’s 6th annual all night art walk, is par for the course at this point. However, amidst the overwhelming act of re-conceptualizing audience engagement, the festival’s most Northern district prompted a calming change of pace.
Zone A, which was comprised of the Yorkville, Annex, Yonge-Bloor and Wychwood areas, provided refuge for those who, like me, hope for a multi-sensory experience without the sensory overload. Some personal highlights included participating in a traditional Canadian log-run as part of Richard Purdy’s “L’écho-l’eau” and feeling privy to the communal confessions of festival goers via the aural rope sculpture, “Radiophonic Territory (Nocturne)” housed in Victoria College. Meanwhile, Hart House’s cricket filled courtyard, as well as the Artscape Wychwood Barns’ “Sonic Spaces (the kinetics of sound)” and “Night Light Travels,” presented interactive and tactile projections on a far more intimate scale.
The artists of Zone A not only aimed to incorporate the themes of social practice and “restaging the encounter” (chief curator Candice Hopkins’ designated title for the area), but also to create an immersive environment for those less bent on spectacle for spectacle’s sake.
All photos courtesy of Sophia Farmer unless otherwise noted.