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.