Can the suburbs save Nuit Blanche? After a two-year hiatus – 2020 was virtual; 2021 was cancelled – the all-night public art event returns at sunset Saturday, Oct. 1, running until sunrise Sunday, Oct. 2, and expanding well beyond the downtown core.
Prepandemic, the event that drew more than a million visitors in 12 hours was increasingly derided as an excuse for a drunken all-night street party that had little to do with visual art. The way forward, it seems, is both a clearer focus and more hubs. Nuit Blanche had already expanded to Scarborough in 2018 and 2019; now it reaches out to Etobicoke and North York too, plus the outlying Toronto neighbourhoods of Don Mills and East Danforth, alongside the usual downtown and uptown sites. In the new hubs, there are specific venues or exhibition centres, including Mel Lastman Square in North York and Humber College in Etobicoke. But Nuit Blanche will still close good old Yonge Street from Dundas to Queens Quay.
With more than 170 projects by 150 artists, this is the largest Nuit Blanche offering since the event was established in 2006. Organizers are prepared for a return of prepandemic crowds, but are also offering augmented reality (AR) pieces and podcasts online for those who would rather stay home.
This year’s theme, which was coincidentally chosen before pandemic isolation, is “the space between us.” Works about land and indigeneity will meet up with ones about the urban experience. Expect some earnestness, and some fun. Here are a few highlights.
One of the most important (and potentially most impressive) international projects will feature video projections on a water screen visible from Queen’s Quay. Mana Moana is a collaboration among two dozen Maori and Pacific artists creating multimedia works about the oceans, climate change and Indigenous knowledge. The project’s first iteration, in Wellington in 2019, won various New Zealand prizes. At 25 Queens Quay W.
Artist and architectural designer Haneen Dalla-Ali considers the Canadian landscape from the perspective of a Middle Eastern immigrant in Between a Rock and a Hard Place, a digital projection in which she layers Arabic script onto images of Southern Ontario’s limestone cliffs. At the TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W.
The mountains come to Mel Lastman Square as Carola Grahn, a Sami artist who lives in Sweden, erects a 10-metre-high inflatable mountain in North York’s public plaza. Namahisvarri is a recreation of a sacred mountain in northern Scandinavia, where mining often intrudes into Sami land, and is built with the whimsical hope that once miners have ground the mountains to nothing, the world will replace rocks with inflatables. At Mel Lastman Square, 5100 Yonge St.
In a photography installation entitled Skin Deep, Montreal artist Chun Hua Catherine Dong exposes Asian concepts of loss of face or shame by covering portraits in colourful Chinese fabrics. At 5120 Yonge St.
Kurdish-Canadian Roda Medhat is erecting a large sculpture featuring a carpeted minaret in Humber College’s Assembly Hall. Created by an artist concerned with the alienation of the immigrant experience, Farsh reflects on cultural connections and disconnections. At Humber College, 1 Colonel Samuel Smith Park.
With Tug, Toronto artist John Notten is mounting a spectacle about the commodification of nature: Outdoors in Colonel Samuel Smith Park, four boats tethered to one tree will be rowing furiously in opposite directions, thanks to their mechanized oars. At Humber College, 1 Colonel Samuel Smith Park.
Toronto artist and architect Esmond Lee is installing large-scale photographic banners at the entrance to the Scarborough Town Centre. Spatial Threads addresses issues of urban, suburban and rural space, looking at the way boundaries shift and landscapes become interwoven. At 300 Borough Dr.
In Why so many ties? Montreal artist Ludovic Boney has created an immersive installation that invites the visitor to walk through a crop of plastic bags. The piece about environmentalism uses 100 wooden planks as the base for 4,000 metal rods to which the bags are attached. At 300 Borough Dr.
What would public art be without a ball pit? Ontario performance artist Morris Wazney is building The Ball Pit at the Scarborough Civic Centre, enlivening a dull concrete corridor with a colourful stage for performers who will be dressed in various kinds of work gear for a show about the daily grind. At 150-156 Borough Dr.