Nuit Blanche in the City that Never Sleeps

The annual Nuit Blanche art festival returned to Toronto on October 1, marking its 11th visit thus far. The free contemporary art festival, formerly sponsored by Scotiabank, has captured the hearts and attention of Toronto since its debut a little over a decade ago. This year, the festival was smaller than in previous years, with around 90 projects

Ocean, a part of OBLIVION, curated by Janine Marchessault and Michael Prokopow, was one of three exhibitions in the Nathan Phillips Square and City Hall area. As noted by the curators on the official Nuit Blanche website, "OBLIVION is about destruction and forgetting. It is about drowning in the pitch-blackness of pure and finale absence. And it is about the possibilities of adaptation and unprecedented renewal."

"Artist Rendering of Ocean © PBAI, 2016"

Ocean took place in the Rotunda of City Hall, transforming the historic building into a mesmerizing ocean of dazzling lights. Philip Beesley, the artist and architect behind the work, used recycled textiles from H&M’s Garment Collecting Initiative to create the canopy, imitating the movements of crashing waves and capturing OBLIVION’s statement of drowning in the darkness.

Behind City Hall, a river of books streamed down Hagerman St. and Elizabeth St. “Literature vs. Traffic” was a light installation featuring piles and piles of donated books associated with Luzinterruptus, an anonymous artistic group that performs urban interventions by means of light installations in public spaces across the globe. Late night spectators could even take a piece of the art work home: a book.  

Literature vs. Traffic is part of And the Transformation Reveals, curated by Camille Hong Xin. The aim, as Camille Hong Xin stated in the curatorial statement, is to discover the "inner poetry" in narrations between "history and memory", "life and death", and other oppositions of similar fashion. Literature vs. Traffic was in many ways, heartbreaking. The installation was a haunting reminder that the printed book is rapidly disappearing and being replaced by all things e-lit.

"Literature vs. Traffic, 2015"

To label one artist’s work as the highlight of the festival would be a disservice to Nuit Blanche altogether. But if asked which exhibit was my favourite, I would, without hesitation, say Director X’s Death of the Sun.

"Death of the Sun, Director X"

Death of the Sun is the second exhibit included in OBLIVION. This exhibit took place in the center of Nathan Phillips Square, demanding every pedestrian's attention. Director X, a legendary Toronto artist and an award-winning director, presented Toronto with a jaw-dropping, heart-throbbing installation. His work takes its audience through the life cycle of the sun, portraying the destruction of the very thing that keeps our planet sustainable. Death of the Sun is an extended project that runs from October 2-10 from 7pm to 12am. 

Nuit Blanche 2016 left many in awe. For me, it was yet another reason to fall in love with the city I call home. If I learned one thing from attending Nuit Blanche for the second time, it is to go with a curious mind. Explore the city like a tourist, get lost in the sea of people, fall in love with the things that are taken for granted every day—search for the thing that drew you in to this beautiful city.