Art lovers and citizens of Toronto alike came out to enjoy the seventh annual Scotiabank Nuit Blanche on Saturday night. The festival, which runs from sunset to sunrise each year, provides an outlet for Toronto artists to display their pieces throughout the city.
We started our night in Parkdale and worked our way down Queen Street to explore some of the night’s independent projects. This included many smaller exhibitions in the Gladstone Hotel, such as “Fly by Night: Into the Wild”, a collection of artists and pieces with many diverse styles.
Many of the pieces in the hotel featured a futuristic tinge for the night, including “a WIRED vision” by Alex Grguric, which combined old print media and magazine covers with LCD monitors and speakers, and the impressive “#embodiment” by Maria Galaxidas, an interactive sculpture of a cyborg brain covered in red, green, blue, and yellow LED lights.
Continuing down Queen, one memorable piece in the window of the Knit Café was “She Come Undone”. It was a giant knitted matryoshka doll that participants unravelled throughout the night to reveal another smaller doll under each layer until nothing remained. The destruction of the art piece became the main attraction, leaving only a memory the original doll in the photographs and videos of passersby throughout the night.
As we moved towards the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, which featured a waterfall of tied fabric on the outside, more artists with different visions appeared. Jamelie Hassan’s “At the Far Edge of Words” featured art from her various collections, including pieces inspired by the poet Mahmoud Darwis, featuring handwritten Arabic manuscripts decorated with modern neon symbols.
Yonge and Dundas became a place for many to meet up and explore what the night had to offer. The Eaton Centre stayed open to display some bigger pieces descending from the mall’s ceilings, such as “Slipstream” by United Visual Artists, which had stainless steel prisms shifting and scattering light from the inside.
Light-based installations dominated the evening, with many artists displaying creative pieces of work that illuminated the darkening city. Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky’s “All Night Convenience”, a tent set up as a tiny convenience store filled with lit-up containers, bottles, and fake canned products, drew a large line. The mock store was anything but convenient, requiring a wait of up to an hour to get in, but those who did get in got to take home a glowing piece of the store.
Other light installations included a giant Space Invaders-inspired light piece outside the St Andrew subway station, featuring the classic neon-green aliens from the video game.
Many people came out to enjoy the spectacles. Summer Jones, a resident of Toronto and a veteran of Nuit Blanche who has attended the event four years in a row, offered her advice for taking in the various art exhibitions. “Sometimes there’s no right way to plan your Nuit Blanche experience,” she said. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of meandering through the streets and seeing what intrigues you visually.”
With its many different types of art media, Nuit Blanche transformed Saturday night and the city into something outside of and beyond the usual. It was a great chance to meet up with friends from around the city, and downtown Toronto provided a visual backdrop that stimulated the senses. The festival was attended by serious art lovers, people of doubtful sobriety, and everyone in between, but the participants came together around the pieces and lit up the night. A light drizzle of rain throughout the evening added to the mood.
The night also provided exposure to many artists who were not officially part of the festival but who still wanted to showcase their art to passersby.