Nuit Blanche 2014

Nuit Blanche is an all-night free art festival in Toronto.  It runs one night in early October from 7pm until 7am.  This year it happened on Saturday, October 4th. It was my first time attending the event.


I had heard rumours of the festival being practically overtaken by drunken revellers, suffocating crowds, and long lineups (to gain access to exhibits).  The aforementioned rumours were mostly true – but I found the crowds to be navigable, the drunks to be cheerful, and the lineups …well, I chose to not wait in any of the lineups. There is still a lot to see without having to wait in a line. Some exhibits are not crowded, some do not necessitate lines at all,  and those that have long queues can be viewed from the outside – or can be returned to later.

I began the night in Roundhouse Park, near the Toronto waterfront (at Lower Simcoe and Bremner). The most impressive exhibition to be found there was called “HOLOSCENES” and featured people in a large glass box filled with water (essentially a human aquarium).  They were seen doing ordinary things, such as preparing for bed. I read a synopsis stating that the idea was to provoke thought on the effects of global warming (i.e. flooding and catastrophic weather patterns) on people’s everyday lives.






The next one I saw, also in Roundhouse Park,  was a series of light boxes that interacted with viewers. When someone passed one of the light boxes, the light pattern would change based on their shape and movements.



I moved onto King Street and found this very interesting exhibit outside of Metro Hall.







Here is some more information about it, for those of you that are interested.


I travelled up John Street towards Queen St W, where I found this unbelievable installation!






Here is the description/explanation:


The next exhibit I came across (on Queen Street) provided the public with a soundproof outlet for their frustrations.


The next one one was a maze made up of translucent material with brightly coloured lights projected inside of it in a linear pattern.  The effect was unique and beautiful.


In the background you can also see the “Global Rainbow” by artist Yvette Mattern. It was made up of seven laser lights spanning two kilometers and could be seen all over the city.






Here is a closer shot of the “Global Rainbow.” It can be seen still – from October 5 to 9 and 12 to 13, 6 p.m. to midnight and October 10 to 11, 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. at 222 Spadina Ave (south of Dundas Street West but visible city-wide).

This photo doesn’t do it justice… is quite spectacular in person.


Ogden Junior Public School (on Phoebe Street, 2 streets north of Queen) joined in on the festivities.


Part of their installation was a series of videos projected onto large windows on the side of the school.


Here is the description:


I traveled back down to King Street where the TIFF Bell Lightbox (my favourite movie theatre) was showing a series of free films all night long.

The first one we saw was “The Unauthorized Hagiography of Vincent Price”. It was a fake biography, or “faux-ography” of Vincent Price.


It attempted to explain Vincent’s life through a chronological examination of the time periods featured in his films, starting from ancient Egypt (“The Ten Commandments”) up until the 1960s (“Edward Scissorhands”).  In between film clips and accompanying narration, false facts and real photographs from Vincent’s actual life were presented. If it sounds like it doesn’t make any sense, that’s because it doesn’t.  It was still quite entertaining, however, and contained many of Vincent’s most deliciously twisted movie quotes.

One of the other TIFF Bell Lightbox theatres was showing silent movies accompanied by a live jazz band. I am a big fan of silent movies – especially ones accompanied by live music – so I was quite excited about this, and it did not disappoint.


For any film geeks out there, here is a list of the movies that were shown.


Now on to my #1 favourite art installation of the night – the “Monument to North American Energy Security.”  It was front and centre in Nathan Phillips Square (the public square outside Toronto’s City Hall).


The screen was showing typical advertisements for energy/oil companies – scenes of green grass, forests, and natural places with clean water and air and animals frolicking happily in meadows.  In front of the screen are two large oil tanks/silos with the label “Can-American Energy” with foreboding-looking skulls painted on them. In front of them is a series of fountain jets spewing a brownish/reddish substance (assumed to be oil and/or blood) into the clean water of a large pool.  As a result, the pool had a large, disgusting-looking slick covering its surface.




This exhibit cleverly juxtaposes the desired image of oil companies (happy, clean, and environmentally responsible) with the more typical reality of the results of oil and gas companies’ activities (oil slicks, dirty/contaminated water and land, environmental degradation and the resulting death to wildlife).


The exhibit was extremely powerful in person – the effect on the crowd was palpable.


Did any of you go to Nuit Blanche this year? What are your impressions on what you saw?

Stay tuned!






2 thoughts on “Nuit Blanche 2014

  1. Wow this really makes me miss living in Toronto – being able to do something at all hours is something I’d forgotten all about. Thank you for sharing – especially about Native American art and taking a true look at oil.

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