What’s worth staying awake for at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche

Take your afternoon nap and grab your comfy shoes! It’s that time of year when the streets, galleries, parks and other spaces will play host to Toronto’s annual all-night art obsession. Beginning at sundown on Saturday, October 5 until sunrise Sunday, October 6, our city will host Nuit Blanche free and mostly-family friendly exhibits. You can map out what you want to see (all installations are listed on the official website) or you can just wander. But know that there are a few hubs worth exploring including 401 Richmond Street West that houses many artists in one space, Scarborough Town Centre and surrounding areas, Fort York National Historic Site, Sterling Road and the Waterfront are all participating.

Nuit Blanche

Here are a few installations under the umbrella theme “Continuum” that we will definitely be staying awake and may even keep you awake just thinking about them for days…er, or nights…

LIFE OF THE EARTH: Artist: Director X (Toronto). Location: Ontario Science Centre. As a follow up to his stunning “Death of the Sun” installation at Nuit Blanche 2016, Director X returns with “Life of the Earth” reflecting on humanity, environmental destruction and the sixth mass extinction of plant and animal life currently happening on our planet. This installation will allow for time travel from Pangaea to the Anthropocene to an Earth 100,000 years beyond humankind. Along the way, it will illustrate drastic changes that have transformed the planet. The Earth will be seen as if from space—a key vantage point for illuminating a state of emergency and the urgency to mitigate human impact on climate change

EVERYONE WANTS A FREE BABY!: Artists: Studio F Minus (Toronto). Location: Garrison Common, Fork York. We’ve enjoyed this team’s awe-inspiring installations and it looks like this won will sure be the talk for days. Set on the Garrison Common, part of the old military grounds at Fort York, “Everyone Wants a Free Baby!” plays with themes of birth, power and collective experience. A toy baby will be regularly shot from a customized cannon, slowly descending towards the crowd below, as if dropped by the fabled stork. This project will invite the audience to consider creation and destruction as parallels to two of our strongest and most complex human instincts: the desire to nurture and the need to compete. Pitching violence against tenderness and greed against selflessness, the work will playfully ask the audience to participate in an act of transformation themselves. One of the most recognizable symbols of warfare in Western culture, the cannon, will be turned into a generative tool, literally launching new life into the audience’s midst.

IT ALL MAKES SENSE: Artist: Stephanie Comilang (Toronto). Location: Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) This artist creates a video, light, scent and textile installation for Nuit Blanche. “It All Makes Sense” recreates a memory of the first time Comilang saw the film “Perfumed Nightmare” by Kidlat Tahimik, who, like her father, comes from Baguio, a mountain city and old American airbase in the Philippines. This teen moment in a basement changed Comilang’s perspective on life and will transform MOCA’s entrance hall. This work has been specially conceived for MOCA and Nuit Blanche. Comilang is a contributing artist to the concurrent exhibition Age of You (Sept 5, 2019 – Jan 5, 2020) curated by Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist.

EQUILIBRIUM: Artist: Odessa Dobbie (Montreal/Toronto). Location: Sterling Road.

This interactive installation will consist of hundreds of balancing porcelain birds. The birds are duplicated from a mass-manufactured plastic toy developed in the early 1990s. But here, in ceramic, more is at risk in the balancing act. Participants will be invited to balance a bird on one finger; inevitably, many of these will fall onto the floor and break. Throughout the evening, attendees will also be invited to perform as “sweepers,” relocating fallen shards into an ever-growing pile at the centre of the installation. The mirror glaze that covers each bird’s exterior will reflect each viewer’s own appearance. This reflection, merging viewer and art object, will, it’s hoped, prompt wider contemplation of the delicate interdependency between nature and humanity. The beauty of this artwork will lie in the vulnerability and responsibility it requests, but does not command. The fate of this work is in the viewer’s hands—literally.

FLY BY NIGHT: Artists: Akshata Naik, Tanya White. Location: The Gladstone Hotel.

Akshata Naik’s interactive project “Bloody Boats” will fill the Art Bar with hundreds of red paper boats, symbolizing geographical displacement and migration. Over the night, the installation will grow, as visitors are able to contribute boats and stories. Tanya White’s ethereal “lanugo weaves 1 and 2,” made of horsehair and invisible yarns, will fill the space with a ghostly presence.

TRANSFORMATION: Artists: Fezz Stenton, Daniel Lanois (Toronto). Location: MaRS Discovery District.

This project is a rallying cry for our planet. A call for everyone to work together and support the innovators who are combating today’s mounting threats to our environment. Featuring an immersive, multimedia experience set in the soaring, cathedral-like MaRS atrium, “Transformation” will include 3D projections, super-sized sculptures, interactive light displays and informative videos. It also will include special contributions by Canadian icons Margaret Atwood and Daniel Lanois, who has composed a new soundscape for the event. Visitors will wade through a projection-mapped, plastic-clogged river, dodging massive, inflatable sculptures, prompting them to re-examine their own behaviours around single-use-plastics. They’ll gaze up at an enormous, glowing orange orb—a reminder of the catastrophic effects of earth’s rising temperatures—before arranging their own beautifully-lit pathway as they walk through a series of touch-sensitive, LED Nanoleaf light panels.

IT’S ALIVE! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection: Location: Royal Ontario Museum

Famous guitarist Kirk Hammett, of the heavy metal band Metallica, has been collecting classic horror and sci-fi movie posters for roughly 30 years. This exhibition will explore his significant collection. It will also examine the connection between artistry, emotion and popular culture through a selection of works from 20th-century cinema. “It’s Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection” is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.

KALEIDOSCOPE: A SOCIAL MEDIA TRINITY: Artist: Alejandro Figueroa (Venezuela/Montreal). Location: Drake Hotel. Do it for the ‘Gram? A live feed of projections from social media—the “social media trinity” of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram—will be the basis for this human-sized kaleidoscope. Originally presented at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, this installation will produce social media content at the same time that is being produced by social media content. Make sure you bring your fully charged phone.

EULOGY FOR THE COFFIN FACTORY: Artist: Lake Effect Projects. A ceremonial exhibition that will mourn the passage of the Coffin Factory at 89-109 Niagara Street. Originally built in the 1880s, this was home to the National Casket Company from 1908 until 1973. In more recent years, it has become known as the Coffin Factory, been used as artist studios and workshops, and served as an important space for the creative ecology of downtown. Now, these buildings are slated for redevelopment. Tenants were evicted in early 2019, marking the end of an era for the area. This project will provide an opportunity for the public to grieve, reflect and celebrate the Coffin Factory. Playing on the building’s casket-factory history, 24 former artist-tenants have been commissioned to adorn 24 coffins produced for the event. These will be displayed in a long row lining the south side of Niagara Street.

LUNAR GARDEN: Artist: Daniel Arsham (New York). Location: Nathan Phillips Square. Visitors will be able to take a break from the everyday and Zen out in this surreal world. A 30-foot (nine-metre) light orb resembling the moon will light up a landscape made of colourful sand. The sculptures—enlarged casts of everyday objects—will hint at future archeological finds. Shifting between a centuries-old tradition, an artist’s creative interpretation, and an implied future, the garden plays with motifs of permanence and impermanence creating a work that has the tendency to float in time. This signature style of reimagined architecture continues the artist’s past work—including colour-gradient sand paintings which present raked Zen gardens in a static, vertical format. The artist’s recent shift away from black, white and gray tones became possible with special glasses that correct his colourblindness. These allow him to see a broader, more vibrant spectrum—one he will share with Toronto through this otherworldly and luminous “Lunar Garden.”

21st CENTURY CRAFT: One Path Collective. Location: Spadina Museum. Explore the polarization of craft versus the so-called ‘fine arts’. The artists will present a performance and installation honouring the talents of largely unsung craftspeople—such as the Gee’s Bend quilters, among others. Craft has been in a constant state of becoming over the centuries. From its roots in necessity, it has morphed through industrial and electronic revolutions, affected by fads and changing perspectives. Each artist in this project will focus on craft techniques often taught in the home. They will evoke the cultural and aesthetic kinship among makers. And all will use found or repurposed materials. Crafting in the home is frequently a point of genesis for these artists and their processes. “21st-Century Craft” will permit visitors to see some of the skills behind couture, marquees, props and scenery. These genres are often made in service to live performance art, rather than recognized as arts in their own right.

THE BIG FEMINIST GAMESHOW: Artist: Hatecopy (Toronto) Location: Cineplex Theatre, Scarborough Town Centre. Girls! Girls! Girls! This unapologetically fun and fast-paced participatory live-streamed event will test Torontonians on their knowledge of the very thing that makes the world go round.

DA’IQ FLIGHT: Artist: Mediah (Toronto). Location: Scarborough Civic Centre. An immersive, cinematic animation featuring a supernatural being who takes viewers through outer darkness into a radiant alternate dimension. The project will be performed in real-time as the artist manipulates his animations in front of the audience’s eyes creating unique, unrepeatable experiences. The projection mapping project will ask the audience to ponder the age-old question of whether there is more to our existence than meets the eye.

SCARBOROUGH ROYALTY: Artist: Durothethird (Toronto). Location: Albert Campbell Square (150 Borough Drive, Scarborough) In a tribute to his hometown, Durothethird makes royalty of everyone in this immersive installation combining graffiti with sculpture.Scarborough-based artist Durothethird brings elements of street art to the public, creating an immersive experience where viewers are reminded of their royal roots. Combining graffiti’s raw energy with a participatory sculpture, this artwork will give every resident of Scarborough—and beyond—the opportunity to be queen or king of this domain. Drawing on narratives from the diverse geographies that make up the borough, the artist will showcase his pride in coming from an area of the GTA that has evolved and contributed to this city’s cultural fabric. His work spans Canada, Australia and the United States, and his clients include Google, Sprint, Tiesto, MGM Grand, Facebook, Adidas and Walmart.


For more information, please visit the Nuit Blanche website.




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Covering events, openings and all the deliciousness in Toronto.