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19 incredible things you must see at Toronto's Nuit Blanche Add to ...

This article is from 2013. Read this year's list of must-see attractions.

Hard to believe now, but in the days before Toronto’s first Nuit Blanche, in 2006, organizers wondered if the city really would warm to an “all-night contemporary art thing.” They’d be happy, they said, if 250,000 people took in the free exhibitions, installations, interactions and performance art pieces occurring in 55 galleries and assorted venues. We know what happened: Nuit Blanche was an almost unqualified success, drawing 425,000 voluntary insomniacs and prompting other Canadian cities to quickly follow suit.

Today, with attendance reaching one million, the event now called Scotiabank Nuit Blanche seems as anticipated and as permanent a fixture on the fall cultural scene as the Toronto International Film Festival. Like TIFF, Nuit Blanche has grown so fast, so big and so varied it’s impossible for there to be just one Nuit Blanche experience shared en masse. Each person has a Nuit Blanche particular to him or her. Nevertheless, here we offer some suggestions that should make up a part of your 2013 experience.

Use your smartphone and find your way there by clicking any address.

If you like outdoor installations

Forever Bicycles/Ai Weiwei

Queen Street W. at Bay, Toronto

It’s taken workers 15 days to put together this interlocking assemblage of 3,144 Chinese-made bicycles in Nathan Phillips Square (Queen Street W. at Bay, Toronto). Easily Nuit Blanche’s biggest outdoor installation, it’s also the super-sized version of the 42-bike installation of the same name currently on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario as part of its popular Ai Weiwei retrospective.

You’ll also like:

  • Garden Tower by Tokyo’s Tadashi Kawamata
    Hundreds of stacked chairs, benches and pieces of garden furniture ascending to the heavens (Metropolitan United Church, Queen Street E. at Church, Toronto).
  • Tortoise by Montreal’s Michel de Broin
    A construction of large wooden picnic tables bolted and screwed together (Queen Street W. at University, Toronto).
  • Plastic Bags by Cameroon’s Pascale Marthine Tayou
    Thousands of netted bags dangling like a huge ersatz chandelier (Bell Trinity Square, Toronto).

If you like performance

Everyday Marvels/ Lorna Crozier and Shannon Litzenberger

110 Queen’s Park, Toronto

A cyclical, 12-hour performance piece happening at the Gardiner Museum (110 Queen’s Park, Toronto). Performance consists of 16 vignettes created by eight choreographers, recruited by Ms. Litzenberger, and based on poems with titles like vacuum and flashlight by the award-winning Lorna Crozier. There are more than 50 performers involved.

You’ll also like:

  • Night Shift by Brendan Fernandes
    Another 12-hour epic, this one at Bay Adelaide Centre (333 Bay St., Toronto), ruminating on the repetitiveness of labour. There’s a cascade of gold confetti at sunrise.
  • Your Temper, My Weather by Diane Borsato
    One hundred beekeepers in white suits move and meditate. Live music at 11:30 (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto).
  • Paper Orbs by Christine Kim and Marcin Kedzior
    A massive, floating origami sculpture made up of some 6,500 individually folded paper helmets that passersby will be asked to gently dismantle over the course of the evening by wearing the helmets (University Avenue and Armoury Street, Toronto).

If you like contraptions

Music Box/John Dixon

University Avenue and Armoury Street, Toronto

An “absurd mechanical contraption” made out of real musical instruments (brass, guitars, tympani), powered by a central motor, “creating frenetic musical noise.” The machine, situated on stationary flatbed trailer, also moves back and forth, occasionally disappearing into a large box like the bird on a cuckoo clock (University Avenue and Armoury Street, Toronto).

You’ll also like:

  • Voices of Fire by Michael Jursic
    A kinetic, interactive sculpture. Participants sing songs into a karaoke machine connected to a flame tube that measures sound waves and the flames flare and dance accordingly (Artscape, 601 Christie St., Toronto).
  • Robert Hengeveld’s Howl
    A small-scale roller-coaster featuring a mechanical wolf endlessly and noisily chasing a rabbit (56 Temperance St., Toronto).
  • Toaster Work Wagon by Iskowtiz Prize-winner Kim Adams
    Described as a “mobile concession vehicle” featuring various-sized tandem bikes where the handle-bars have been altered to face in opposite directions (Osgood Laneway, 361 University Ave., Toronto).

If you like it weird

Campfire/David Hoffos

19 Richmond St. W., Toronto

Mr. Hoffos is famous for his illusionistic installation works that mix sculpture, video, audio and cinema. Here, he creates the illusion of a roaring fire in the heart of the city’s Financial District. “The result is a scene that occupies a conflicted temporal zone." (19 Richmond St. W., Toronto)

You’ll also like:

  • Faith La Rocque’s L’air du temps
    A scent installation/environment that promises to evoke 1919 Paris. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s famous ready-made Air of Paris (Queen Street E. at Yonge Street, Toronto).
  • The rose is without why by Paris artist Boris Achour
    A 21-word poem from the 17th century, made out of fluorescent lights and spanning a whopping 90 metres (Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto).
  • My Virtual Dream prepared by Baycrest Health Sciences and U of T Faculty of Medicine
    Wireless headsets allow participants to “synchronize their brain waves“ to create “a panorama of colours, images, sound and music’ onto a dome (144 College St., Toronto).

If you like it big

Tanks/Cal Lane

David Pecaut Square, Toronto

Adept with the oxy-acetylene torch, Ms. Lane repurposes large steel tanks and I-beams by hand-cutting lace fabric patterns onto their surfaces, thereby confusing notions of ornament and function, feminine and masculine (David Pecaut Square, Toronto).

You’ll also like:

  • Kelly Richardson’s Mariner 9
    A 12-metre-long high-definition panoramic view of a Martin landscape “set hundreds of years in the future” (Commerce Court, King Street W. at Bay Street, Toronto).
  • Monster Child by Libby Hague
    A four-metre-high inflated child suspended from a tower while behind her looms a giant spider-like balloon monster “considering vengeance for all the insects mankind has killed” (Queen’s Park Crescent and College St., Toronto).
Photos by Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail; Shannon Litzenberger and Lorna Crozier; John Dickson; David Hoffos; Cal Lane
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article listed Shannon Litzenberger as "Sharon." This version has been corrected.

Follow on Twitter: @Jglobeadams

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