Nuit Blanche Picks, 2016

Every year, before Nuit Blanche, I try to decipher the artist statements published in the program and try to decide which installations will be the ones to see. Its hit and miss, and impossible to know for sure until the night itself, but these are my picks for what I think will be worth seeing this year at Nuit Blanche.

Ocean, 2016


Ocean has the potential to be one of those immersive affecting pieces that borders on the incredible. I still remember 2011’s SOON at Commerce Court (this video does it no justice), which turned commerce court into a rumbling alien invasion site. One of the things I want from a Nuit Blanche installation is something that fundamentally changes the location from the mundane to the something other, and Ocean could be one of those. From the description:

Ocean will create a turbulent primal environment in the Rotunda of City Hall. A constantly-changing canopy of recycled textiles induces vast, unstable forces where brilliant bursts of light alternate with dark, surging movements and intense waves of hypnotic sound. A chorus of cries and whispers echoes within rising waves.

A Public Memorial, 2016

This installation looks like it could be whimsical and fun. Strike a statue pose! Have your picture taken!

Statues in parks and public gardens generally lionize historical and political figures and events. Monuments to a significant period or individual commemorate a bygone era. In A Public Memorial, a street level billboard covered in retro-reflective material hints at a ghostly image of a Toronto park. However when photographed with flash, the photo transposes for a split second from negative to positive in crisp black and white detail.
Here, anyone can strike a pose and be photographed, creating a silhouetted sculpture garden inside the image. Small wooden platforms in front of the billboard are pedestals for these impromptu statues.

Interspersed throughout the exhibition area, the audience will also find several traditional picture frames within which they can pose and create Victorian-style “selfies.”

Meet Me in the Glass House, 2016


I don’t usually enjoy video installations at Nuit Blanche. Usually, you walk into a room and just find a video playing. I’m always looking for some kind of interesting use of space or theatricality to a piece (see my mention of Soon, from 2011. Seriously, this is my benchmark for Nuit Blanche). This installation seems like it have some of what I look for. If it looks anything like the picture, it will be worth stopping at.

Abstract in composition, this immersive video installation explores the idea of ‘genetic memory’ – that there are memories with which we are born, imprinted on our personal history like DNA. The project includes a vast variety of documentary footage and feature-film clips from works by the artist and is accompanied by a sound installation creating a symphony of voices and monologues. Through a montage of videos the viewer can travel an interior world of memory, unattached to any particular place or name. With multiple screens, the video-house connects the past and the present on a stream of consciousness journey. Each clip is a flash of memory.

Fallen Water – Niagara Escarpment, 2016


This one is another that intrigued me by the picture. But I have to admit, that I’m leery. This is another video installation, and if it transforms the entire space, it will be worth it, but if they don’t execute it well, it will be just another set of screens. And don’t we get enough of screens in our every day life? But there’s something intriguing here, and I for one will definintely be stopping by to see what they do with this.

Across dozens of televisions arranged into the shape of a towering waterfall, each screen will display a unique video from one of the aforementioned locations. Referencing the disparate origins of the water that flows into Lake Ontario, these varied waters appear unified in an inverted color space as a constant flow of pink, orange and yellow hues moving downriver from screen to screen.

Literature vs. Traffic, 2010


I want to love this one. A street filled with books. I want it stretching as far as the eye can see, wrapping around the corner. A river of words replacing the concrete and pavement that lie just beneath. While it may not be quite as breathtaking as that, I think it will definintely be worth the stop. This installation does something else that I look for in Nuit Blanche: it plays with light. This won’t be as big as 2012’s All Night Convenience, but anytime an artist plays with light at Nuit Blanche, I take notice.

Created with the help of volunteers, this interactive light installation will transform a street that is normally allocated for vehicles into a river of books overflowing in a symbolic gesture. The donated books will become the conqueror of public space with traffic yielding to the modest power of the written words.

Everyone Thinks the Same Thought, 2016

Honestly, I have no idea how this one will execute, but I find something about the description hard to resist.

Inside the freestanding walls, surrounded by projection surfaces, screens and speakers, audiences will be enticed to abandon themselves to the moment and experience one thought together. Every few minutes the installation will reset and a new thought will pulse through the structure.

Surreal and darkly comic, the installation references retro-futuristic films of the 60s and 70s such as Woody Allen’s Sleeper and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. And yet it is hauntingly of the moment. The future has arrived, in which individual thought is unnervingly malleable.

Ascension, 2016

In all the years I have attended Nuit Blanche, I have never encountered an Olfactory Installation. This looks like it will be the year. The uniqueness of this piece puts it on my list.

Julie C. Fortier proposes an olfactory landscape of the Toronto sky, offering the visitor an experience of evocative scents. A graduate in both the visuals arts and the perfumery, she combines these specialisations to reveal the power of smell as a way to activate memory. The work speaks of absence and stimulates the imagination to awaken memories, sensations and images.

Planetarium / Terminal, 2016

This is listed as a photography installation, which seems a little static for Nuit Blanche, but this one definintely meets my criteria for transforming a space into something unexpected. Turning the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal into a planetarium is an intriguing thing to contemplate.

Once visitors pass the Terminal turnstile, they will enter an open space, which brings them to the ferries. An irregular concrete hexagon skirts the passageway. On its surface will be 10 panoramic photographs taken of the interior of the abandoned Montreal Planetarium. The interior dome is lit, photographed and recomposed. The audience will have the experience of visiting an open-air planetarium, looking at the sky overhead framed by the architecture and surrounded by the photographs of the artist.

Portals @ the Drake
White Line @ the Drake 150

These two outdoor projects at two separate Drake locations play with light and mundane objects, creating arches of plastic buckets lit from within.

Here, New York artist Jason Peters, creates profound experiences with the most mundane materials – in this case using hundreds of two gallon plastic buckets, lit from within, it is an environment guests can walk through and explore. Through this piece it is the artist’s wish that ‘By being able to wander through the art work you create open and intimate spaces for yourself’.

And those are my picks. What are you looking forward to?

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