Nuit Blanche 2019

Nuit Blanche transformed our workaday city into something magical. It was a chance to see the familiar urban environment with fresh eyes. I was introduced to new places, but I also discovered new perspectives on aspects of Toronto that daily routines had blinded me to. The night was not just about experiencing art, it was also about exploring the city.

I started at the Coffin Factory on Niagara Street which was a long-established home to many artists and their studios. Tenants were recently evicted to make way for a condo. Around the building 24 coffins were arranged and each one was decorated to reflect the work and career of an artist. It was a poignant display of the cultural collateral damage of unfettered development.

24 Artists – Eulogy for the Coffin Factory

Around the corner from Niagara is an empty old abattoir. At the front gate a vigil for the animals that were slaughtered here was held by the activist group ‘Toronto Pig Save’. Past the gates, Kim Morgan and Kaitlyn Bourden had added ghostly, illuminated equipment to the courtyard. Further in, Max Dean and Jared Raab projected their video piece That Moment in front of the illuminated loading docks of the now decaying facility.

Kim Morgan Kaitlyn Bourden – Anatomy of an Abattoir

Max Dean, Jared Raab – That Moment

Next to the abattoir stands another imposing vacant hulk: the ‘Wellington Destructor’, an ancient garbage incinerator. Artist Markus Heckmann used projected geometry to seemingly warp and bend the surfaces of this normally inert and massive brick structure.

Markus Heckmann – LAB001 (Licht am Bau 001)

Moving East, I was drawn to the illuminated entrance of a large domed structure. The dome houses a massive pile of winter road salt. Under the centre of the dome, artist Jonathan Schipper had installed a 3D printing device that was building structures out of salt and water. Visitors could walk up and over the mountain of salt to watch the activity below.

Jonathan Schipper – Detritus

Back outside I followed the newly completed footbridge that now links Stanley Park to Fort York. It’s a beautiful structure. Nuit Blanche was a great event for an inaugural walk across it!

View from the new footbridge

At the south end of the bridge, the translucent glass walls of the Fort York visitor centre were lit from within up by the kaleidoscopic light installation by LeuWebb Projects. 

LeuWebb Projects – Thermally Speaking

The formerly bleak and empty concrete basilica of the Gardiner Expressway’s underbelly has recently been transformed into and urban park, the Bentway. This place was full of people, art and vendors. At the western end, a video and dance performance by Francesca Chudnoff filled a full bay with deep blue light.

Francesca Chudnoff – Halcyon

Further east, a vast yellow membrane hung down from above, shimmering in the breeze. As I got closer, I saw that it was a simple construction: many rows of hazard tape wrapped around the columns illuminated from within by powerful lights.

Gareth Lichty – Hoarding

Just west of Bathurst, projectors and speakers recreated the effect of waves lapping on a beach. This was a project by Christine Dewancker called Daylighting (without you I would be lost).  The installation demarked the original natural shoreline of the Lake, which due to landfill, is now much further to the south.

Christine Dewancker Daylighting (without you I would be lost)

The next day, all traces of the art were gone, but the experiences of the night remained. The ephemeral artworks of Nuit Blanche make the places that they briefly occupied permanently richer and more meaningful.

Text and photo: Mikael Sandblom

A Photo Journal by Adrian Ooesterman:

Life of the Earth by Director X at the Ontario Science Centre

Monument to the Arctic Phenomena for BRANTA by Polymetis at 235 King Street West

XSITE by Javid Jah at David Pecaut Square

(Im)possibilities by Aitak Sorahitalab, Mehran Azarbad at the Aga Khan Museum

Various Artists, 401 Richmond by Built for Art at 401 Richmond Street West

Photo: Adrian Ooesterman

Of the artworks that I saw at Nuit Blanche 2019, I was moved most by Bekah Brown’s multimedia installation Chasing Red which brought crowds swarming beneath the Eaton Centre Bridge, visitors bathing in the colors of the Northern Lights while surrounded by the sounds of both nature and technology. Brown’s installation was the most crowd-oriented of the various installations near Yonge and Dundas that required waiting in an impossibly long line to get close in order to appreciate the art.

Bekah Brown, Chasing Red

Olivia Musselwhite

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