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nuit blanche 2012

Curators Michael Prokopow, left, and Janine Marchessault chose apocalypse as the theme of this year’s Nuit Blanche exhibition at City Hall.Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

Should a visitor from another planet land during Toronto's seventh annual Nuit Blanche late Saturday or early Sunday, he (or she, or it) could be forgiven for concluding our civilization is on the verge of a major meltdown.

After all, what to make of hundreds of thousands of people of all ages swarming hither and thither on foot in the dark, lining up to gape at weird things with no useful purpose in out-of-the-way locations, eating kebabs and crepes at 5 a.m., then going home to sleep at an hour when otherwise they'd be waking up?

Apocalypse, it turns out, is indeed the organizing principle for the multimedia exhibition at City Hall, one of four zones making up this year's all-night art party, which will see 150 works installed throughout the downtown core.

Collectively titled The Museum for the End of the World, the City Hall/Nathan Phillips Square exhibition comprises 14 projects, commissioned and curated by Janine Marchessault of York University and Michael Prokopow from the Ontario College of Art and Design.

The Globe and Mail recently asked the curators what inspired their concept.

Ms. Marchessault: One of the issues we've been dealing with as a society is a sense of impending end. Given that we're surrounded by reports of a world seemingly out of control, we thought it would be a timely intervention – and not just because of the Mayan calendar but because it really is a part of the socio-cultural zeitgeist.

Mr. Prokopow: Many people have a simultaneous sense of inurment to the reality of the profound change that is going on and a type of defeatist fatigue. And so you just keep doing the behaviours you know are contributing to the thing you dread … the irreversible movement toward the abyss.

Ms. Marchessault:The word 'for' in Museum for the End of the World is a pivotal word. On the one hand, a lot of the projects reflect the horror and terror of end times. But others are about trying to get through the end times, inventing new planets, planting impossible apocalyptic gardens, suggesting beginnings.

Mr. Prokopow: Which is why, at the centre, we have, like a Greek chorus, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale in Nathan Phillips Square performing this arc of songs [called I Dream a World] that go from despair, gloom and desperation to hope, recovery and possibility.

Ms. Marchessault: We actually asked for an underground parking garage as a location for this project. The underground garage in the 1950s served a dual purpose: It was a place to park cars and it was a fallout shelter for humans in the event of a nuclear attack. We thought that was perfect for our intentions.

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