Every year Toronto closes down streets in the downtown core area and artists from all over the world set up installations. Nuit Blanche is a contemporary public art project that happens one night a year in different cities around the world. From sunset to sunrise, the dark Toronto streets get lit up and transformed into a weird and whimsical world. The theatrical carnival of light, sound, and kept the population entertained. This year, even though the weather was chilly, people still came out in droves and the streets were flooded with pedestrians.
The mood was festive way into the night as people walked around with their friends and family. This year most of the installations were concentrated around Queen Street and the Fort York area (near Lake Shore). The exhibits were more spread out this year, and the higher attendance and street closures caused traffic to come to a grinding halt. It’s probably best that you avoid driving in the downtown area when Nuit Blanche comes to town. Instead, take public transportation into the core area and join in on the merriment. The Toronto Transit Commission even extended subway and street car hours into the early morning to accomodate.
On the first Saturday of October, Toronto streets are transformed into a giant party with thousands of people crowding around the more popular exhibits. Long lines snaking around the block was the norm, and some people waited for hours before entering some exhibits. We gave up on the waiting in the longer lines and just ended up walking around for most of the night. Compared to the Nuit Blanche in New York, the scene in Toronto is way more chaotic.
HALFLIFE – was a performance art piece where the artist explored the idea of fear in an apocalyptic event and how we interact with each other in this technological era. Carriers wearing a bright helmets wandered around the street, infecting people with the Half Life “virus” by writing on them with invisible markers whose ink was only visible under UV light. Marked people were then given the UV marker and encouraged to spread the virus throughout the night. At midnight, people were to converge at city hall to see the results.
Gap Ecology – The artist from New York city transformed a stretch of Queen Street West into an urban jungle. The sculptures consisted of herds of “cherry pickers” filled with palm trees illuminated high over the street. This piece was inspired by the canopy gaps in the Amazon rain forest and translated to the urban jungle.
Screaming Booth – Dotted throughout the city were sound-proof booths where people lined up to get a chance to scream whatever they wanted out loud. Inside the dark both, alone, you can be as loud as you want without disturbing people around you. In the city where people are living on top of each other, the ability to express yourself loudly without judgement or reservation can be quite cathartic.
Coalesce – The H& M store on Queen Street West glowed in the dark as part of a light installation that “explores themes of sustainability and the global exchange that is embedded within the garments we wear and the textiles we consume”. As the earth’s resources dwindle, it’s becoming more important to re-examine the idea of using recycled material in modern textiles.
Amaze – This exhibit allowed people to wander through a colossal maze made up of scaffolding structures covered in layers of fabric and surrounded by glowing light aimed to provide a multisensory experience. The idea is to find yourself as you get lost in the labyrinth. Unfortunately, the line was too long and we didn’t get a chance to find ourselves. Instead, I tried to capture a picture of us as we played around with the lights and shadows from the outside.
Walk among Worlds – The artist from Mexico created an exhibit of the world’s population represented by thousands beach balls lit up in blue light to “explored the effects of light and lightness, reflecting on world cultures and political divides.” Each ball is a different size commenting on the idea of “first” and “third world”. The exhibit is immersive and allows people the chance to reflect on our planet as they make the journey to the middle.
The free art exhibits at Nuit Blanche not only provide entertainment, but also a chance to reflect about how we fit into the world. It allows us to think as well as enjoy ourselves, and isn’t that what art is all about? Now that I am finally done with Toronto, I can start on my posts about Hong Kong. Check back next week to read about our anniversary trip to the Far East!