BY CHARLOTTE DRACOPOULOS
The city of Toronto became a massive art gallery last Saturday. From sunset to sunrise people took the streets to explore the installations that were on display during this year’s Nuit Blanche Toronto.
Nuit Blanche gave the city unique access to art projects, and focused on giving audiences a sensory experience that immersed them within the Toronto arts community.
The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) once again participated in the festival with the installation Ancient Forest Alliance, created by artists Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier. The project included projections and sounds to immersive viewers in a forest, while also raising awareness about environmental issues.
Attendees at the AGO were also welcome to explore the lower and first levels of the gallery.
At Nathan Phillips Square spectators came into contact with a massive textile sculpture that covered the front of Toronto City Hall. The installation was called Radical Histories created by artist Ibrahim Mahama.
The piece was designed to draw attention to “the conditions of supply and demand in African markets,” according to Nuit Blanche’s website. Using jute sacks, the artist traded new bags for old ones to bring some of the histories of how the bags were used into the work. Those who contributed to Mahama’s project left personal messages on the bags. The piece became a visualization of trade and production.
“It’s one of my favourite installations this year, especially after learning the context of it. The texture of the piece conveys the story extremely well, and I always appreciate the more tactile works at Nuit Blanche,” said Sanchita Mitra. An Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU) alumni who attended the festival.
Also on display at Nathan Phillips Square was the United Way’s project #unignorable, created with artist Malika Favre. It was a sensory experience for spectators as they walked into a large box with almost see-through walls being illuminated by an orange light. A fog machine was blowing fog into the box and white noise was projected by speakers. The intent was that participants felt isolated by the experience and to help bring awareness some of the social issues the United Way is working on. Such as, homelessness and the mental and physical health of seniors.
One of the more playful installations on display was birdO, a large-scale sculpture of a bird that could be seen towering over the buildings on York Street. The work was inspired by the Kirtland’s Warbler, a small song bird that nearly became extinct, according to Nuit Blanche’s website. The tiny bird was transformed into a massive installation.
At 500 Bay Street, Nadine Bariteau’s installation Do Angels Exit? swung overhead. The piece was made up of suspended glowing prints that depicted dragonfly wings and falling feathers, illuminated by a blue light the sculptures moved with the wind.
The piece is meant to question ideas surrounding loss, grief, and regeneration, as stated on Nuit Blanche’s website. It asks the question “do angels exist?”
“I like the story behind the piece Do Angels Exist and I appreciate what it represents. There is a perfect balance of happiness and sadness in the piece where the dragonflies and falling feathers represent angels in the sky looking down,” said Kayla Singh, a Sheridan College alumni from the practical nursing program.
“The piece makes me feel like angels are watching us while we continue through the radiant journey of life,” added Singh.
This year OCADU housed the installation Forward, created by artist Daniel Iregui. The installation included two screens that each projected an infinite tunnel. The sight and sound of the installation gave the viewer the feeling of forever moving forward.
Alongside the planned art displays spread across the city, street artists came out to perform for festival goers as they wandered around the city. Taking up sections of the street, crowds formed around the musicians as they played.
“The best part about Nuit Blanche, and the reason I keep coming back, for me is the street music. I didn’t really see much of the art to be honest,” said Rinata Zainiyeva, who was a part of the crowd around one of the street performers.
The street performers added to the sensory experience of Nuit Blanche bringing in their own sounds and emphasizing the night’s focus on immersing the city in art.
The festival is meant to celebrate the Toronto arts community as art installations are created in collaboration with the City of Toronto. This year was the 13th edition of the arts festival and over 75 projects were on display, according to Nuit Blanche Toronto’s website.