Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nuit Blanche 2014

This year, Nuit Blanche shifted west into Chinatown, away from the Financial District. There were also more exhibits further south, around the Roundhouse Park and Fort York areas.  It made for a nice change of pace to be able to explore different neighbourhoods and have new backdrops for the annual all-night art exhibitions.  The following were some of the highlights from my night out:

My favourite exhibit was Garden of Renova, which used brightly coloured Renova toilet paper to create beautiful designer dresses.  I look forward to the Renova display at each Nuit Blanche since they always have something fun and creative to show.

In the heart of Chinatown on Spadina Avenue, a couple installations could be viewed at the same time.  First there was Made in China, a sculptural tower of clothing, three stories high, made up of garments donated by the local  community.  Then, emanating into the sky from behind the buildings were 7 rays of laser lights that created the Global Rainbow.  The light show resulted in a rainbow that spanned between Chinatown and the CN Tower.

In Roundhouse Park, Holoscenes provided the most fascinating performance art installation of the night.  A man was enclosed in an aquarium-like glass case that repeatedly filled and then emptied of (seemingly warm?) water.  With him in the glass case was a blanket and pillow which he manipulated, wrestled with and floated around with when the water level is high.  As the water started to subside, he swam to the top to get a breathe of air, and then tried to get into a sitting or sleeping position.  The water seemed to rise and fall minute by minute.  Just watching him was exhausting and I wondered how long he had to perform before his turn was up.

Some of the exhibits which were the most fun were the ones that we were able to participate in or interact with.  Many of these were hard to access since they were also usually the more popular events, resulting in long lineups and wait times.

We did "get tested for viral contagion" as part of the HalfLife performance, which involved allowing agents, wearing hazmat suits and an orange glowing contraption on their heads representing viruses, to dab us with UV reactive ink markers.  Then they passed out little UV flashlights, which were to be shone on the "tested" area, revealing bright florescent yellow spots.  All the "infected" people were supposed to reconvene at Nathan Phillips Square at midnight to be "quarantined", but by then, we were too tired to do this.

At OCAD University, the participants formed the art itself, as our shadows were projected onto a wall in multiple colours.  People were having fun waving and making shadow puppets in the air. With Shy Lights, you ran around trying to chase spot lights shone from a tall building above, but the lights danced away just as you get close to them.  Whoever was manipulating the lights must have been having fun frustrating the people below.

In many instances, the long lineups scared us away from some fascinating-looking exhibits.  Rather than waiting, we just walked by and took a photo from afar.  This was the case for Walk Among the Worlds, where you could walk through archways made up of 7000 beach balls with maps of the earth printed on them. AMAZE was a labyrinth filled with light and sound, and the Screaming Booth, allowed you to go in and vent your frustrations with the world.

Instead we opted for sculptural or video installations out in the open, where there were no lineups and you could just walk up and take a quick look.  Wild Air Vision Electro featured an artist spray-painting a Subaru Legacy vehicle, turning it into a psychedelic work of art.  In the spirit of P.T.Barnum circus freak shows,  8th Wonder consisted of an octopus-like creature with an video-driven evil eye while musicians play eerie music at its base.  Gap Ecology tried to bring the Amazon Forest to downtown Toronto by using cherry-picker lifts to hoist large palm trees overhead.

Black Sun featured a really cool video of a wrecking ball that appeared to swing in space, ready to destroy the building in front of it, while By Means of a Sigh showed a looping video of two people blowing bubblegum bubbles so large that they touched before bursting.

Although there were still the usual cheesy exhibits that made you scratch your head and think either "huh?!?" or "meh...", I thought this year had more interesting projects than the previous few years.  As always, some of the best displays were not officially part of Nuit Blanche, but just vendors or artists who decided to do their own thing to take advantage of the hoards of people walking by.  The Malabar Costume Shop did the best job of this, providing a fun-filled costumed exhibition while generating great advertising for the upcoming Halloween season.

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