Nuit Blanche 2011

Having attended five out of six Toronto Nuit Blanche’s (and working with them as an intern last year) I have to say this was by far my favourite year. Being so immersed in all of the content last year taught me that when it comes to Nuit Blanche, planning pays off. Even if you only choose 10 exhibits to see, you’ll benefit from reading the guide and finding things you like. That said, I know something like 80% of Nuit Blanche attendants just show up and wander the streets. But not me! I picked up my guide early from City Hall, scoured every description and chose about 40 exhibits I wanted to see with about 5 “must-sees” starred and circled and highlighted.

This year seemed so much more accessible, way-finding was easier, art was easier to spot, I waited 10 minutes in line at the most, and everything seemed close together. We started off at The Bata Museum, entering another galaxy through CFC Media Lab’s Technological Displacement, a visual exploration of deep space using the whole body as the navigational instrument on a screen. Images of starry versions of ourselves were projected onto a screen where we could push around the other stars by waving our hands about.

Technological Displacement

We ventured on to Hart House, enjoying the group exhibition how far is near — how near is far and then made our way to MaRS for Richard Purdy’s L’écho-l’eau, one of my favourite exhibits of the night. The long corrider had been turned into a log filled pond which you could walk through and on top of the logs. Since I had dressed for the elements, it was lovely to cool my feet off walking through the water. 

We made our way across College Street to Yonge, where we walked up to Limelight: Saturday Night by Sans façon, where streetlights had been turned inward to construct a spotlight in the middle of the street. We only stayed for a moment since no one was in the spotlight, but I love this idea and the whole interaction of the piece, hearing the audience nudging their friends into the spotlight and the way in which the audience becomes the piece.

After that it was on to The Heart Machine by Christine Irving. Knowing that Irving’s Flux and Fire had won last year’s People’s Choice award, I put this exhibit at the top of my list, and it was definitely a favourite as well. I think my under-dressed friends also enjoyed the warmth provided by the installation. Protruding from a large central heart were four “arteries” each connected to sensors that, when touched, caused flames to shoot up to 25 feet into the air from 16 foot tall columns. It was exciting and beautiful, and made me feel connected to all of the participants standing in its vicinity.

Next we walked over to City Hall to take in Flightpath, by Usman Haque and Natalie Jeremijenko. With no intention of standing in the line, we were able to enjoy the experience through others, and it was a beautiful scene of flashing rainbow lights and angel winged beings soaring above.

Flightpath

By then it was almost 2am so we headed south to catch The Tie-Break, a performative re-enactment of the legendary fourth set tie-break from the 1980 Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Singles Finals between Björn Borg and John McEnroe by Tibi Tibi Neuspiel and Geoffrey Pugen. On the way we passed Camilla Singh’s Cardiac Combustion Chamber, an exhibit sponsored by Chevrolet. The best part of this was realizing one of our friends had jumped into the front of one of the stationary cars and was beckoning us to join. Another one of my friends hopped on his lap and was promptly told by the security guard that she had to exit since there weren’t enough seat belts in the (stationary) car, so my friend buckled the seat belt around both of them and that seemed to be acceptable. Hilarious!

We got to the The Tie-Break just as it was scheduled to start, and waited patiently as videos were shown to the crowd, but couldn’t see them as we were sitting on the far side of the stadium. Finally the players came out and the match was well played and lots of fun.

To end it all we popped into TIFF Bell Lightbox for Singin’ in the Dark: ’80s Edition. So much fun and great energy and the entire theatre turned into a singalong dance party. We danced up a storm and ended the art part of our night.

Kudos to Nuit Blanche for producing what I found to be the best Nuit Blanche yet. I can’t wait for next year!

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