Photo Credits: Rosemarie Rotundo and Toronto Financial District
What exactly went down at the street party that took over the GTA
Rosemarie Rotundo, The Mike Contributor
Nuit Blanche — the largest contemporary art festival in North America — returned to the streets of Toronto on October 5, 2019. The annual interactive art show illuminated the city from sunrise to sunset, as roughly 300 artists and 90 installations unified the GTA into a night-long celebration of the artistic and cultural energy present within our city. Nuit Blanche is not only a platform for local artists to showcase their creativity, but also a celebration of diversity: accessibility was considered at all levels of the city-wide exhibit.
This year, Nuit Blanche explored the curatorial theme “Continuum” in response to the blend of analogues and paradoxes that exist within a mutable city. Each installation provided a unique approach to the theme, while still maintaining the essence of the festival: the perpetual renewal of night into day.
Lunar Garden by Daniel Arsham
In the heart of Nathan Phillips Square, visitors had the opportunity to experience Daniel Arsham’s largest Japanese-inspired garden. The installation was composed of a landscape of colourful sand, littered with enlarged moulds of everyday objects, that had been overcome by a 30-foot luminescent orb, designed to replicate the moon. The piece was accompanied by the initial soundscape by Charlotte Day Wilson. The artist continues to pay tribute to his prevailing style of re-imagined architecture, though only recently beginning to incorporate colour into his pieces due to advances in modern technology that more effectively treat colour-blindness. The oversized figures hint at upcoming archaeological findings while highlighting the fluidity and impermanence of elements that contribute to anxiety. Arsham’s installation urges users to exhale and “Zen out” from the work-dominating lifestyle imposed by the fast-paced energy, prevalent within the city.
Sound of Toronto by Mønochef, Ilze Briede (Kavi), Liz Lisa
The Sound of Toronto installation featured recognizable sounds throughout the city as a backdrop to a 360-degree digitized slide show, illustrating distinguishable sights throughout the city. The public participating in the avant-garde installation had the opportunity to reflect on their daily experiences within their urban surroundings while challenging their preconceptions. Alongside the remix of sounds, a live performance assisted in bringing spirit to the Sound of Toronto.
Live Mannequin Showcase by Blāque Book and Aquarius Mood
The Live Mannequin Showcase integrated the work of several artists, including the creative directors of Aquarius Mood; the Blāque Book models; and choreographers and designers Zoba Martin, Mer Des Dieux, and Narces. Parallel to the mannequins decorating retail storefronts, the models enacted an intimate narrative through oscillating between static poses and subtle movement.
Fashion illustrations by Karn Goode
Karn Goode’s array of fashion illustrations was presented within the Hallway Gallery of the Artscape Daniels Launchpad. After many years within the fashion industry, Goode has gathered thousands of illustrations; however, this was the first time she presented her artwork in a public setting.
Kaleidoscope: A Social Media Trinity by Alejandro Figueroa
The Kaleidoscope installation allowed the user to explore their personal relationship with the “social media trinity” composed of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook by incorporating a live feed of projections within the exhibit. The aesthetically-soothing structure encouraged users to reflect on their own need for external validation through social platforms as we emerge into a digital/social age.
As a yearly attendee of Nuit Blanche, I couldn’t help but notice the expansion of the sunset-to-sunrise art festival this year. The annual contemporary art show spanned across a greater portion of the GTA, and with the greater perimeter covered, the festival attracted a larger reach among its target audience. However, with the indisputable growth of Nuit Blanche over the years and the lack of barriers to entry into the festival, users cannot help but question whether the art show is more of a sprawling street party than it is considered a celebration of culture and creativity. Has Nuit Blanche adopted a strategy that focuses on fostering economic development within the city — attracting Torontonians and tourists to consume resources within the city — rather than create an audience for aspiring artists and curators and those who relish in celebrating their creations? It really makes the public think whether participation, on the artist’s behalf, within Nuit Blanche really has much to offer either. Due to the intermittent manner of the event especially, the resources used contribute to the user’s one-time experience does not aim to retain an audience for the art on display. The public should question the necessity of the funding, which could be used to tackle alternative economic crises facing our modern society.
Nuit Blanche prioritizes economic payback and providing its audience with an event that does not fail to impress. As a result, it relies on public and corporate support to help reach its monetary and economic aspirations. In recent years, by annually attracting roughly 1 million attendees, either from within or outside of the province, the festival’s economic impact has exceeded $40 million. That Nuit Blanche had a $1 million contribution in 2006 highlights the growing economic benefits the event imposes on our society.
Nuit Blanche can certainly be rowdy, especially while those late hours of the night begin to creep up. However, while booming, its fun energy attracts an audience with no bounds. The event encourages an audience made up of users of all ages and cultures who share enough appreciation for their community to engage with the showcased exhibitions. The event celebrates the cultural diversity prevalent within our nation while also celebrating the distinctiveness of our experiences with those of others. Through incorporating unconventional and avant-garde art pieces within its interactive galleries, Nuit Blanche prompts its audience to adopt a new perspective, external to their own, when reflecting on installations showcased.