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Nuit Blanche: Best Bets for Montreal’s All-Night Art Party

AKVK’s Thrift Store Radio will occupy FOFA Gallery in the wee hours of Montreal’s Nuit Blanche.

Over the past decade, the term “nuit blanche” – literally meaning “white night” or “all-nighter” in French–has made its way into the international lexicon of contemporary art. Offering (mostly free) arts, music, performance and dance events, Montreal’s Nuit Blanche is the country’s oldest annual all-night art party, celebrating its seventh year this Saturday. But while Toronto’s version of the festival is often associated with blockbuster art installations and large-scale, corporate-sponsored events, the Montreal edition seems to be permeated with a more hands-on, DIY aesthetic. With installations, exhibitions and performances spread out across the city, however, art aficionados will still need a plan to get to all the must-see events. Here, Canadian Art offers a guide to the most promising offerings in four of the festival’s top districts.

1. Quartier Vieux-Montreal and Quai du Vieux-Port

In one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, debuts by international artists and emerging talents mark the Nuit Blanche offerings, including a special event hosted by the DHC/ART Foundation that invites viewers to help create a full-length, collaborative movie script inspired by the work of Finnish video artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila. Playing off the title of Ahtila’s exhibition, “INT. STAGE DAY,” the collaboratively produced script will use its opposite screen direction, “EXT. PARKING LOT-NIGHT,” as a jumping-off point for a filmic story that promises to be as multi-layered and engaging as the artist’s own practice (6pm to 2am, 451 & 465 rue St-Jean). Meanwhile, at nearby Galerie Pangée, the space of the stage is given a different twist in “Backstage,” a series of photographs of Canadian and international rock musicians in the moments before and after their performances taken by artist Valérie Jodoin Keaton, who is a former member of Canadian band The Dears (6pm to 5am, 40 rue St Paul O).

2. Quartier des Spectacles et Centre-Ville

The greatest number of official Nuit Blanche events take place downtown in an area populated by provincial museums and contemporary art institutions known for their ambitious programming year-round. At Galerie de l’UQAM, visitors have the chance to see the sculpture-focused exhibition “Expansion,” curated by Louise Déry, and take in a series of related performances by alumni and faculty from the school including Belinda Campbell, Raphaëlle de Groot, Les deux Gullivers (Flutura & Besnik Haxhillari) and Thierry Marceau (8pm to 3am with performances at 10pm and 1am, 1400 rue Berri). Below the gallery, in the “depths of UQAM,” a cryptic performance titled Circulez, y’a rien à voir ! (“Move along, there’s nothing to see here!”) offers a glimpse of the university’s nocturnal activities through perceptible and imperceptible movements (9pm to 2am, 1440 rue Sanguinet). Concordia’s FOFA Gallery also concentrates on the ephemeral and immaterial with a performance by the trio AKVK (Steve Bates, Joshua Bonnetta and Douglas Moffat) called Thrift Store Radio. Accompanied by guests Charles Stankievich and Kathy Kennedy, AKVK attempts to listen to phantom sounds in film, cities and transmissions as part of their ongoing exhibition “Ghost Acoustics” (1515 rue Ste Catherine O). Down the street at the Belgo building, Les Territoires’ presentation of a series of performances and screenings by emerging artists, co-curated by exhibiting artist Yuula Benivolski under the theme “Young Blood,” promises to keep viewers warm with work by exciting up-and-comers and warm refreshments to stave off the cold winter weather (8pm to 2am, 372 rue Ste Catherine O #527).

3. Quartier Plateau Mont-Royal

The bohemian-chic Plateau area is a sprawling neighbourhood dotted with artist-run centres that have a wide variety of activities planned throughout the night, including the debut of a new film by photographer Raymonde April at Occurrence that explores her most recent archival project (organized with curator Edouardo Ralickas) currently on view in several Montreal galleries (5277 ave du Parc). There is also a screening at La Centrale of Quebec artist Julie Lequin’s recent works which explore “questions of identity and language through a whimsical, crafty and satirical lens” (screenings at 10pm and 1am, 4296 boul St-Laurent). For those too fidgety to sit through films in the wee hours of the night, the district also plays host to a set of high-energy performances. At Red Bird Studios, a group of artists take part in “Art Anarcholympics,” appropriating the competition of the winter games to make witty interventions into nationalist politics (8pm to 2am, 135 ave Van Horne). Meanwhile, the group ODNI (Objets dansants non-identifiés) takes over the bay windows of an upper-floor apartment for an all-night improvised dance recital that gives late-night strolling a voyeuristic edge (8pm to 2am, 374 ave Édouard-Charles).

4. Art Souterrain

Finally, for those who just can’t face the taxing February weather, curator Frédéric Loury has pulled together an ambitious program of screenings, installations and performances in the underground corridors throughout the city, activating the unusual subterranean architecture and taking over several metro stations with temporary art projects. Among the Art Souterrain projects to look out for are Isabelle Hayeur’s photographic intervention, Sleep (or periods underground), which transforms the passageways of the Quartier International into creepy and comfy basement tableaux; Mathieu Beauséjour’s massive sculpture Monument, which replicates a siren-red French guillotine; and film screenings in the McGill metro station of Alana Riley’s Love Songs and Manon de Pauw’s Échelle humaine [Human Scale].

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