What’s turning us on at the Luminato Arts Festival

We had a sneak peak of the Hearn Power Generating Station a few months ago when it was first announced as this year’s hub of activity for the 10th annual Luminato Arts Festival. The location is not the easiest to, located on Toronto’s Port Lands, but we swear it will be worth your efforts. We were invited back to see the transformation of the space with the large scale installations in place against the raw industrial backdrop and what we saw was mind-blowing.

Hearn Generating Station Luminato
Hearn Generating Station before setup – Photo by Joel Levy

Other than lending itself to film and TV productions (Robocop, Suicide Squad) not much has been happening here at the Hearn but in 2014 Luminato’s Big Bang Bash Gala had the city buzzing as social media exposed the first look at the potential of this being a public space. The station opened in 1951 as a coal-fired electrical plant until 1971 when it was converted to burn natural gas. It was finally closed in 1983. The impressive space is three times larger than the Tate Modern (England) and big enough to fit the Statue of Liberty upright. Not only will the over 27,500 square metres (and 650,00 cubic metres of space inside) be in use but the 705 ft. (215 m) iconic smokestack will be activated for the first time since it was shut down.

From June 10 to June 26, Luminato will #TurnOnTheHearn offering an incredible line up of art and culture in this curious wonderland. There are many free performances and installations to experience as well as ticketed events worth exploring. Here are some highlights noted on the final media tour before it opened to the public.


Pierre Huyghe’s Untilled (in partnership with AGO): when you approach the Hearn through the ruined outdoor landscape, don’t be alarmed if you hear the buzz from an active beehive that is situated on a statue of a headless and reclining woman. The artist is very interested in living systems so his work extends beyond the artist and the viewer — it involves the ecosystem so not only is the artist creating something but the bees are as well.

Trove by Scott McFarland: located on the second level which spans the length of the Hearn Generating Station (former Turbine Hall), images of Toronto’s 50 most beloved and important objects and works of arts are featured along the walls. Items were photographed in their places of origin from museums, neighbourhoods and some hidden in private collections and then placed in 3D renderings for the installation. Beyond the Hearn, duplicates of the images will be scattered across the city.

Luminato disco ball Hearn
Disco Ball – Photo by Joel Levy

One Thousand Speculations: The world’s largest indoor suspended mirror ball by Canadian artist Michel de Broin is a spectacular 7.9 metre in diameter ball made up of 1000 plexiglass mirrors. It was explained that the term speculations came from the latin word that refers to reflections. The light that bounces off the ball gives off images that may seem familiar but uncertain. Because it is plexiglass and not glass, the light reflections create patterns instead of symmetrical lights reflections. The artist explained that the first time the concept was created it was in Paris and was suspended by a crane outdoors. de Broin described the reflections in that space around the gardens as beautiful and offered a different experience being inside, making use of the industrial space and how the light travels through the building.

Situation Rooms by Rimini Protokoll: At any particular moment 20 people can simultaneously experience this installation. Enter through the doors with an iPad mini to listen to one of the international human stories that involves international weapon trafficking. Listen to the words from a child soldier, peace activist, and others as you walk through the space. “Our aim is to understand weapon trafficking,” said artist Protokoll. “Germany is the third biggest exporter of weapons in the world and we wondered what happens to those weapons on the other side of the world. We don’t think that we are in the middle of the world but actually we are more connected than we might think. You step into their shoes. You don’t see the person but you see your own hand.”

DX Satellite by Jordan Soderberg Mills (in partnership with the Design Exchange): Your mirror selfies will be the envy of all your friends as this new series of anaglyphic mirrors plays with perception and colour. Light breaks down the colour spectrum creating 3D-(sans glasses) reflections.

DX Satellites Hearn
DX Satellites Hearn

CIRCA 1948 by Stan Douglas (in partnership with The National Film Board of Canada and TIFF): is a virtuality room that recreates two locations in Vancouver post WWII which are Hogan’s Alley which is now Chinatown and Second Hotel Vancouver that was demolished that housed squatters. Both locations were iconic places in Vancouver that have resurfaced recently. In the two virtual locations, viewer can walk through the streets of Vancouver in 1948. Walk through the hallways of the hotel or gambling room and uncover the ghost stories from a past era.

Le Pavillion Restaurant Experience with Frederic Morin (Joe Beef) and John Bil (Honest Weight): a visit to the original control room of the Hearn Generating Station is like entering a time capsule but don’t be disappointed when we tell you that online reservations are full — organizers have dedicated half the seating to walk-ins. Le Pavillion was inspired by the 1939 World’s Fair. France had set up a “Pavillion” to highlight the best in French cooking. Not wanting to return to France, the chefs at that time ended up seeking asylum in the US and opened up a restaurant in New York. This restaurant experience during Luminato offers seated dinners serving all things French and past. Rumoured surprise celebrated chefs will also be visiting to cook in this unique kitchen. Keep an eye on Luminato’s social media pages for news.

hearn control room restaurant
Le Pavillion

This is just a sampling of what to expect and obviously there’s TONS to see and experience during the Luminato Festival. Be sure to check out the complete line up at www.luminatofestival.com as well as directions and shuttle bus service schedule. Several off-site events and installations noted.




About Sonya Davidson 922 Articles
Covering events, openings and all the deliciousness in Toronto.