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Eleven Artists Illuminate With Their Views on Nuit Blanche

Various locations, Toronto September 29 to 30, 2012

This weekend, more than 500 artists will be mounting 158 projects for Toronto’s seventh Nuit BlancheCanadian Art issued a questionnaire to several participating artists, asking for their thoughts on the nature of the event, their contribution to it and how they’re going to pull the annual all-nighter. Eleven responded; here are their answers.

RHONDA WEPPLER & TREVOR MAHOVSKY
Weppler and Mahovsky’s All Night Convenience is a large, illuminated pop-up convenience store comprised of lamps in the shape of merchandise, which will be offered to participants for free, gradually darkening the store throughout the evening. It will be installed at Bay Adelaide Centre, 333 Bay Street (Between Bay and Yonge, south side of Temperance Street).

At Nuit Blanche, it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people come and see your project?
Given that the crowd disperses our piece, you may end up seeing bits of it even if you don’t want to. Our piece is a twist on the idea of the community lantern festival, which we hope will have an interesting dialogue with the overall experience of Nuit Blanche. Viewers can choose to invest more time waiting to shop for a lantern in our transparent “store,” or watch the spectacle from a distance, taking as little or as much time as desired. It’s not something you need to enter to experience as we intended.

Some call Nuit Blanche a public spectacle; others call it an art event. Which is it?
It’s both: those aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive categories. We saw it as an opportunity to be playful and work with the spectacle, retaining the way we commonly engage our laborious handmade processes with forces—such as gravity, time, or in this case the crowd—much more powerful than us.

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see at Nuit Blanche this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?
There are a lot of artists we have met or followed over the years, and we would love to see their projects. Going through this process of adjusting to a different platform than a gallery situation makes us appreciate how artists such as Neil Campbell, Hadley+Maxwell, An Te Liu, Kelly Mark, Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg—to name only a few—might approach the challenge. But most of all, we will miss discovering new artists: there will be so much energy and so many ideas out there.

Working in public is quite different than working in the white cube. How is this project different from what you usually do in gallery spaces? Or if it’s not different in terms of product, how has the process been different? (What have you had to consider that you don’t typically?)
We have done a lot of ephemeral projects that require a lot of work for a piece that only exists for the length of an exhibition, and is transformed during its “life.” This is an extreme version of that: if our other works were Galapagos tortoises, this is a mayfly. But the actual labour involved is possibly greater. Over the last six months it took about 500 hours just to make the lantern component of our piece. Then there is the planning, and logistics. We have a better appreciation for the event planners for a Super Bowl halftime. Also like Super Bowl halftime, the audience is extreme in scale. More people will see the piece in that one night than any of our other pieces have ever been directly experienced—maybe more than all of our other pieces combined. That is both amazing and unnerving.

What are your Nuit Blanche survival strategies in terms of staying up all night (and hours before and after)?
Trevor has a three-year-old, so he can still draw upon his memories of that first week of her life…. Actually, we have had to endure a lot of long, on-site installations. Usually these have been inside the shelter of the gallery, so not sure how the social aspect of it will wear on us. Sometimes that’s exponentially exhausting. One reason we work together is that in those lowest moments we share a look of utter desperation, and everything seems just a little bit better.

 

IRIS HÄUSSLER
As part of curators Janine Marchessault and Michael Prokopow’s “Museum at the End of the World” program, Iris Häussler reimagines her work Ou Topos, eine synthetische Erinnerung, Vienna (1989) beneath Toronto City Hall: an actor inhabits a makeshift fallout shelter comprised of tin cans covered in foil. Ou Topos will be located at Toronto City Hall underground parking garage, 100 Queen Street West (accessible from entrance ramp on Bay Street. Wheelchair accessible via “SEAL” elevator on Nathan Phillips Square).

At Nuit Blanche, it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people come and see your project?
Well, if the prophecy of one of the many apocalypses unfolds, it might come in handy to have visited the “Museum of the End of the World” recently—particularly to have seen Ou Topos, where 300 litres of canned soup are kept behind a layer of lead, and shown behind the glass of 19th-century vitrines. Here, the museum acts as a temple, but also as a vault and the last source of defense.

Some call Nuit Blanche a public spectacle; others call it an art event. Which is it?
It’s art at the scale of the city. Yes, it serves as a party, but as all parties do, it also offers intimate moments—between people, but also between the artworks and people.

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see at Nuit Blanche this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?
“The Museum of The End of the World” is visually framed by Barr Gilmore’s altered street-signage. That I will see and enjoy! And Douglas Coupland’s works. However, as you are now making me browse through the booklet, I see that I will miss out on fantastic works like Tania Mouraud’s Once upon a time, and Jon Sasaki’s Hands on the Van, which probably illustrates to exhaustion how people can be bought for status. Also, Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky’s All Night Convenience, and Trisha Brown’s 1968 Planes piece…

Fortunately, I saw an excerpt of Christian Marclay’s The Clock at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and, as it is on at the Power Plant for a while, I will revisit it another night.

Working in public is quite different than working in the white cube. How is this project different from what you usually do in gallery spaces? Or if it’s not different in terms of product, how has the process been different? (What have you had to consider that you don’t typically?)
I work in museum and gallery spaces as well as in public spaces like tunnels, abandoned houses, hotel rooms or store windows, but I have never worked in an underground garage. Nevertheless, it feels intrinsic, particularly to this project, which roots itself in a story that unfolded 23 years ago in an apartment in Vienna, and develops into a dropout’s fantastic journey. When I talk with this generation—people the age of my protagonist (about 23 years old)—about our time and their future, I hear a lot of “not wanting to participate in the world economic and trade that shapes our civilization” and their deep fears of “being born too late” to be able to make a difference.

This plays a bit into my work here. In a re-visit of my 1989 piece Ou Topos, where I had researched the radioactive fallout after Chernobyl, I now look into reports about deformations of plants and animals because of Fukoshima: and yes, the schemata of the deformations of wings of the pale-blue grass Zizeeria Maha (a very common butterfly in Japan) published this August by scientists of the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan, are eerily similar to Vladimir Shevchenko’s silhouette shot of oak leaves (late summer 1989). Using such pattern formations to create a wallpaper (1989) or to camouflage the surface of a trailer (2012) leaves an unsettling, yet poetic, taste on my tongue.

What are your Nuit Blanche survival strategies in terms of staying up all night (and hours before and after)?
Listening to and observing the audience, just taking it in, and engaging with whomever is looking for a conversation.

 

OLIVER HUSAIN
With Moth Maze, Oliver Husain makes the Nuit Blanche queue into art, creating a maze of barriers overlooking a film projection, with lights along it that are activated in time with those in the camera’s path. The work will be located at the Green P Parking Lot, 87 Richmond Street East.

At Nuit Blanche, it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people come and see your project?
Luckily it’s not a competition!

Some call Nuit Blanche a public spectacle; others call it an art event. Which is it?
Let’s turn it into a communal glitter stampede.

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see at Nuit Blanche this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?
I’ll be able to check out the other projects in Zone C, called “Once More With Feeling,” which sound great, and hope to get a glimpse of the new Ryerson art building around the corner. I’ll probably miss Lex Vaughn at Jon Sasaki’s Hands on the Van, over at Queen and Dufferin.

Working in public is quite different than working in the white cube. How is this project different from what you usually do in gallery spaces? Or if it’s not different in terms of product, how has the process been different? (What have you had to consider that you don’t typically?)
I started with my own experience of being part of a crowd at big events: waiting in a controlled line-up, being herded around, willing to be treated as a particle of a flow that has to be contained. That frustration never quite gets erased by the thrill of the ride, blockbuster movie, art show or event—it’s part of it. The thrill, which seems like an individual, personal and exceptional experience, works by being put through the crowd management beforehand—which is an impersonal, objectifying experience. The Moth Maze for Nuit Blanche is based on this contradiction and tries to flip it around. I’m looking forward to see how it’ll play out.

What are your Nuit Blanche survival strategies in terms of staying up all night (and hours before and after)?
I’m worried about the effects of synthetic drugs so I’ll stick to organic.

 

SIMON DENNY AND YNGVE HOLDEN
Held at various locations worldwide over the past few years, Body Xerox by Berlin artists Simon Denny and Yngve Holden uses active photocopiers to illuminate a dance party with DJs Craxxxmurf and Baglady. The Toronto party takes place at King Street East & Toronto Street.

At Nuit Blanche, it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people come and see your project?
For DJs Craxxxmurf and Baglady!

Some call Nuit Blanche a public spectacle; others call it an art event. Which is it?
It seems there is a range of things on the program. For us, our event derives from a party format.

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see at Nuit Blanche this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?
The “Archival Dialogues: Reading the Black Star Collection” exhibition. We are big Michael Snow fans.

Working in public is quite different than working in the white cube. How is this project different from what you usually do in gallery spaces? Or if it’s not different in terms of product, how has the process been different? (What have you had to consider that you don’t typically?)
We have not made this event in gallery spaces before—it’s always been a similar event-style format. The difference for us this time is we usually make the event for crowds that we are somewhat familiar with. The scale and format of Nuit Blanche will bring a different kind of audience, so we’ve had to be a bit more organized with our preparation.

What are your Nuit Blanche survival strategies in terms of staying up all night (and hours before and after)?
Coconut juice and Guarana.

 

HADLEY+MAXWELL
Hadley+Maxwell’s sound and light installation Smells Like Spirit functions as a kind of séance for Kurt Cobain, with roadies perpetually unloading gear for a final Nirvana concert. See the piece at the Elgin Theatre Loading Dock, 160 Victoria Street.

At Nuit Blanche, it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people come and see your project?
Because somewhere on their way from Kelly Mark’s Scenes from a Film I’ll Never Make, with Alternate Scores to Trisha Brown’s Planes they’ll realize that, whether they like it or not, they’ve become some kind of a crowd, and are subject to its movements, passions and missteps.

Some call Nuit Blanche a public spectacle; others call it an art event. Which is it?
Neither: it is an exercise in the potential power and complicity of crowds. The art is there to witness the masses, not the other way around.

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see at Nuit Blanche this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?
We wish we could hang out in Weppler and Mahovsky’s All Night Convenience and watch the lanterns disperse, but you might find us voguing at Denny and Holen’s Body Xerox in the early-morning hours.

Working in public is quite different than working in the white cube. How is this project different from what you usually do in gallery spaces? Or if it’s not different in terms of product, how has the process been different? (What have you had to consider that you don’t typically?)
A higher probability of censorship, as we have witnessed other works shut down by powers who aren’t normally allowed to influence the content of artworks. But to be honest, we’re treating the space like a giant white cube—not sure what’s so public about civic spaces these days.

What are your Nuit Blanche survival strategies in terms of staying up all night (and hours before and after)?
Trade secret: let’s just say we’ve been in training in Berlin.

 

GEOFFREY PUGEN
Also as part of “Museum at the End of the World,” Geoffrey Pugen’s 416-788-9663 reenacts a mid-’90s rave at a semi-secret location around Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen Street West (ramp at Chestnut and Armoury Streets).

At Nuit Blanche, it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people come and see your project?
Because it’s from the ’90s.

Some call Nuit Blanche a public spectacle; others call it an art event. Which is it?
I would have to say both. It’s an art event about spectacles and a spectacle of art.

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see at Nuit Blanche this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?
Some projects I’d really like to see: Moth Maze by Oliver Husain, World Without Sun by Christine Davis, White Dwarf by An Te Liu, Scenes from a Film I’ll Never Make, with Alternate Scores by Kelly Mark.

Working in public is quite different than working in the white cube. How is this project different from what you usually do in gallery spaces? Or if it’s not different in terms of product, how has the process been different? (What have you had to consider that you don’t typically?)
In much of my video work I encourage improvisation and spontaneity from actors and crew; however, I always have the final say in the editing room. The live spectacle of Nuit Blanche makes this impossible. However, it opens up new possibilities for concept, reenactment and sculpture. Since live work gives the performers and viewers a chance to connect with each other more directly, I could explore a cultural scene in history, mediated only by performativity and the audience’s gaze.

What are your Nuit Blanche survival strategies in terms of staying up all night (and hours before and after)?
Jameson.

 

CHRIS HANSON & HENDRIKA SONNENBERG
Hanson and Sonnenberg’s The Way Things Are consists of three sculptures showing street lamps doing some particularly “human” things. Got Drunk, Fell Down presents a fallen light standard, as a second lamp looks on with concern. Fountain illustrates a lamp relieving itself on the street. The pieces can be found at Hagerman & Elizabeth Streets (behind Toronto City Hall) and at Temperance & Yonge Streets.

At Nuit Blanche, it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people come and see your project?
It may be entertaining.

Some call Nuit Blanche a public spectacle; others call it an art event. Which is it?
?

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see at Nuit Blanche this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?
Hopefully all the supervising will be done by the time the event starts.

Working in public is quite different than working in the white cube. How is this project different from what you usually do in gallery spaces? Or if it’s not different in terms of product, how has the process been different? (What have you had to consider that you don’t typically?)
The white cube is not much different than working in public. Public projects tend to involve more site-specificity than gallery pieces. The “white cube” often stands in as a sort of  “this may be your living room…, maybe this piece might work for ‘your’ living room…” (for example).

Work in public spaces often requires a certain specificity that cannot be similarly owned or appropriated. Ownership must be consensual—thus public.

That is how artists’ work should be owned.

What are your Nuit Blanche survival strategies in terms of staying up all night (and hours before and after)?
That probably won’t happen.

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