Nuit Blanche 2018 picks

As I write this, tonight is Nuit Blanche. Normally, I have posted my picks for what I think might be the must see installations at least a week before, but this week got away from me. 

A couple of things before I begin. First: I really miss the paper program. I used to go and pick up the paper program as soon as it was released a few weeks before the event, and I would read it, and then read it again. I took my time with it. While I agree that we need to reduce paper, the website just isn’t the same for me. I don’t spend as much time with it, and and so I find it a little difficult to get as detailed as I used to with it. Second: let’s face it, I’m not going to Scarborough on my Nuit Blanche adventure, so I’m not really going to be looking at those installations. While I understand why Nuit Blanche was split in this way, I don’t think it was a good idea. Splitting up the event into sections so far apart that there’s no way to walk between them is a terrible idea. So I won’t be including any of the Scarborough installations in my picks. 

Some things that you probably won’t find on my list: video installations and photo installations. I’m usually very disappointed by these. Too often, the “installation” is just photos on a wall, or a projector showing a video on a wall. I like installations that transform space and make me see a familiar location in a new light. Going to a building and just seeing a projection on a wall just doesn’t do that for me.

As always, there’s no way to know, until the night of, what any of these will be like, which will be stunning and which will disappoint. These are some that I think might be interesting. What are you looking forward to?

International Dumpling Festival, 2018

If you know me at all, you know I love me some dumplings, so you have to know that this installation speaks to me (and my tastebuds) on a profound level. I don’t know how this one will look, or if it will be visually stunning. But, really, if I get to eat some dumplings, I think I’m going to be happy with this one.

Radical Histories, 2012–2018

Radical Histories sounds like it could be interesting. A shroud covering the roof edge of city hall.  If it is anything like the picture on the NBTO page, then it could be visually stunning. But there’s also the chance that this might be one of those ones that leaves me saying “that’s all?” when I finally see it. Only tonight will tell.

Make Your Mark, 2018

Can we talk about this one for a second? Using glue, the artist has taken a little cast of a number of the tips of people’s fingers. You know, like we used to do in grade school, but on a massive scale. Is it just me, or does this sound a little gross? I’ll go see it for sure, but there’s something about it that isn’t speaking to me.

Continuum: Pushing Towards the Light, 2018

This one is definitely on my list. The new bridge between The Bay and The Eaton Centre has been a favourite on instagram and for photographers since it was installed, and I cant wait to see it transformed by dancers, and circus and light.

Do Angels Exist, 2018

This one has a heart-rending origin story, but sounds like it will be both moving and visually stunning. As a kinetic sculpture of moving luminescent images, this one is likely to be memorable. And as it is inspired by the loss of the artists mother and and exploring grief and loss, this one could also be quite moving as well.


I have been impressed in the past with some of the installations at the Bata Shoe Museum, and this one sounds like it could be one of those transformative installations. This one transforms an alley into a passage full of light and motion. Sounds like one to see.

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?

Nuit Blanche 2014 in review

At the end of the night, I turned to Sarah and we both said we that we were trying not to be disappointed. But the fact is that we were.

To start, it should be said that I love Nuit Blanche.  I do. It happens to be one of my favourite Toronto events of the year. I look forward to it every year. I have almost never had a disappointing night; only one that I can recall. This year adds a second.

Overall, I found the exhibits that I saw largely disappointing. I’m not someone who usually says this about Nuit Blanche. I can almost always find enough to say that I enjoyed the event overall. I rarely say that I was disappointed. But this year…I can’t do that.

So, what was the problem this year? There are a couple of things that stand out for me:

  1. With the exception of Walk Among Worlds and Between Doors, too many exhibits  that I saw did not invite interaction. Most of them required you to stand back and watch a thing, instead of being inside them. In past years, my favourite exhibits were ones that put you inside them, like Walk Among Worlds  and Between Doors did this year.
  2. The Night Circus under-utilized its space. The area the this zone used is huge. Exhibits were too spread out, and too few. And not many of them evoked a circus feel. I wanted so much to love this zone, but it felt like I was walking for far too long with too little payoff. If this area is used again, I hope that the curator makes better use of the available space.
  3. Unrealized promise. Open Mind looked interesting in the program. A maze designed in the shape of the human brain. But upon arriving, I was hugely disappointed. A maze means that you have to find your way through without being able to see where you’re going. That was not the case here.  Parade barriers on stilts, with no walls. This was no maze. It was a raised sculpture that seemed to leave everyone disappointed. While there, I heard most everyone say the same thing I did. It was no maze. It was nothing at all. Like so much, this could have been cool, but wasn’t.

Maybe I missed something that would have made the night amazing. I didn’t wait in line for the Screaming Booth, nor did I venture to the 8th Wonder. And I didn’t see any of the exhibits that were a part of  Performance Anxiety at City Hall. But what I did see disappointed me.

Were you out at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche 2014? What did you think?

My Nuit Blanche 2014 Picks

Each year, I take a look at the upcoming Scotiabank Nuit Blanche program and try to figure out what I think are the most promising installations of the night. My challenge is that many of the descriptions in the program are conceptual. There will be no way to know until the night of which will live up to their promise.

Of particular interest this year is the change in zone areas. Gone are the Bloor – Yonge – Bay – Liberty zones of previous years. This year the zones are found around Spadina, Queen W, Fort York, Roundhouse Park and Nathan Phillips Square.

Here are my picks for this year:

global rainbow Global Rainbow looks like it might be worth seeing. A laser light installation that simulates a giant rainbow, projected from Spadina on the CN Tower. From the description, this might be hard to miss. The description says this can be seen from all areas, so this installation might be inescapable (recommended viewing area is at Spadina, south of Dundas).

walk among worlds Look at Walk Among Worlds. Look at it! This looks like DC Comics’ Multiverse come to life. I don’t know what else to say about it. A walk through a room filled with globes. Could be really stunning to walk through.

AMAZE has just an artists rendering in the program. But if it is half as cool as the concept (an immersive multi-sensory labyrinth), then it will definitely be worth looking at. Shy Lights also catches my eye as potentially awesome. An installation of lights that try to avoid you? Could be fun. Holoscenes could also be visually stunning. The Fortune Teller Machine – Zardoz has the promise of taking something away with you: a fortune and a “gift”. Some of my favourite installations over the years have had something that you take away with you. Like “All Night Convenience” two years ago, which let attendees take a product-lantern with them.

big top

Big Top Grand Stand. A big top tent, constructed of various structures, a garish and striking circus tent, without function. A converted concession stand, made into  something new.

Dress Rehearsal has been posted all over. Its picture is found on the Nuit Blanche home page. It is found in most articles about the event. Three light boxes containing performers going through various motions, as well as projected images. The visuals are sure to be striking.

There are many more installations listed in the program, which is currently only available in digital form on the snbTO website. Which ones are you looking forward to?

A caveat: These picks are based on the descriptions in the Nuit Blanche program. There is no way of knowing, until the night itself which installations will live up to their promise. The only way to enjoy Nuit Blanche is to go with an open mind. Go with the flow, listen for what’s cool. See as much as you can. Don’t expect to have your mind blown; expect to be entertained, and you might end up having your mind blown.