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10 Artists’ Nuit Blanche Tips & Troubles

Various locations, Toronto October 5 to 6, 2013

On October 5, Scotiabank Nuit Blanche takes over the streets of Toronto with 112 art projects created by more than 500 local, national and international artists. It’s always challenging to know what to see at the massive event, and how to handle its all-night duration. Debates also continue to unfold about the value of the festival: Is it art? Or is it just spectacle? Here, we turn to those who know best—10 of Nuit Blanche’s smartest artists—for answers.

David Hoffos, creator of Campfire at Cloud Gardens (19 Richmond Street West):

Nuit Blanche is a busy event, and it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people make time to experience your project? What will they see or experience through it?

That might be the wrong question for me—I would actually prefer it if viewers didn’t even know my piece was there! It is a modest life-sized tableau illusion and—in order for there to be any chance for it to have even the subtle effect on the audience that I would hope for (double-takes, mild shock, chagrin, the chills, nostalgia, etc.)—it is best for the audience to be innocent and unsuspecting, to discover the piece by chance. Even knowing the title is already too much information.

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

I think it’s more of a public spectacle, honestly, and I do have concerns that the finer lessons and sensations of art might get lost in the madness. Because my work often deals with notions of spectacle and spectatorship, I figured this format could be a viable context for a project. I agreed to participate because I responded to the proposed theme [of the exhibition] “Romancing the Anthropocene,” and to the site in the Cloud Gardens park, and the budget was suitably small for a modest site-specific intervention. At the risk of sounding hypocritical, I’m not a big fan of the blow-it-all-in-one-night art festival model—I just don’t think it’s the most responsible or efficient use of resources. As a self-employed person, though, sometimes work is work.

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?

I’d really like to see Charles Stankievech’s 35mm film projection piece. Also, Peter Flemming and Gwen MacGregor/Lewis Nicholson’s [project with Workparty].

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

I’m a night owl, so I’m usually up until at least 3 a.m. My strategy (and challenge) for endurance will involve not drinking alcohol before or during the event. Maybe a thermos of oatmeal porridge?

**

Diane Borsato, creator of Your Temper, My Weather—in which “one hundred regional beekeepers dressed in their bee-suits will participate in a massive collective meditation”—at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas Street West):

Nuit Blanche is a busy event, and it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people make time to experience your project? What will they see or experience through it?

I hope people will make the time to stop by the AGO for this; it’s going to be a historic event! It’s the biggest work I’ve ever made—with more than 100 performers involved, in the main atrium in the museum, and doing something quite rigorous and intense. Have you ever seen 100 beekeepers? And 100 beekeepers meditating? They’ll be practicing their expertise at being calm, focused, and present at a huge scale—which will be a truly moving thing to witness. Because of the experimental nature of performance art, I don’t know exactly what it will look like, or feel like, or what we might affect with our minds, but I know that it will be intense for the performers, and for an audience willing to really spend some time with it.

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

It’s a flashy show, with a huge audience, and big lineups, and fast art. And slow, contemplative things too. I think the audience has a major part in determining what Nuit Blanche is. If you bring some patience and attentiveness, you’ll be rewarded with meaningful experiences and challenging ideas. If you want to simply enjoy the party, you can easily do that too. It’s a challenge for artists to negotiate all of it at once, but there will be works that will make it through the noise.

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?

I’ll be really sad to miss out on a chance to see many of the works. I’d love to see Kim Adams’s work, Michel de Broin, Sherri Hay, Max Dean’s new piece, John Dickson, Margaux Williamson, Peter Flemming, Brendan Fernandes, David Hoffos, Maggie Groat, and the work of that great collective VSVSVS. I also heard a lot about Shannon Litzenberger’s Everyday Marvels at the Gardiner… I really wish I could see them all.

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

I’m not sure I will survive! One of the hardest parts of doing Scotiabank Nuit Blanche is staying up all night, I usually wake up very early and go to bed at 9:45 p.m. I’m hoping to have a chance to take a nap beforehand, drink a lot of tea, and then coast on adrenaline. Or I’ll fall asleep meditating. Which isn’t technically part of the plan.

**

Margaux Williamson, creator of HOW TO SEE IN THE DARK“a sanctuary of non-spectacle and non-sound from sunset to sunrise” at Queen’s Park Crescent East & St. Joseph Street:

Nuit Blanche is a busy event, and it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people make time to experience your project? What will they see or experience through it?

Mine will be an oasis of dark in a very bright night, or a chance to try to see the dark. I’m a painter, and though painting has nothing to do with my project, I know that our contemporary eyes crave—even more than beauty and spectacle—to be given relief and space from beauty and spectacle, or to see the things that are missing.

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

Probably a public spectacle to the spectators and an art event to the others. We mustn’t forget cubism!

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?

I will definitely be seeing some other projects, but I need to check the guide first. In the past, it’s been pretty great to go out at about 4 a.m. when the night is more quiet and strange.

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

I would sincerely recommend spending ten minutes looking through the guide or website to see what might interest you. Head there instead of just a busy street.

It will save you a good amount of time. I always figure if you see one or two good things, you can go home. That’s a pretty special night.

**

Reece Terris, creator of Display-Displace, an installation of reconfigured lobby furniture at Richmond-Adelaide Centre (130 Adelaide Street West):

Nuit Blanche is a busy event, and it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people make time to experience your project? What will they see or experience through it?

Upholstery lovers, or fans of Surrealist furniture, should make the time to see the project. Or anyone who loves the colours red, blue, yellow and black.

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

I haven’t participated in a Scotiabank Nuit Blanche event before so I’m not really qualified to answer the question. However I can’t help but think that the event will be an enormous mix of both.

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?

If I had the time I would spend it with Brendan Fernandes’s Night Shift, Alain Declercq’s Crash Cars, and Swoon’s The Anthropocene.

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

I am usually up at all hours anyway, so I’ll save my survival strategies for a real crisis.

**

VSVSVS, creators of 1-855-IS IT ART (1-855-474-8278)—a telephone hotline for the evening—accessible from various locations and based at Toronto City Hall (100 Queen Street West):

Nuit Blanche is a busy event, and it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people make time to experience your project? What will they see or experience through it?

Part of the fun is knowing you won’t see it all, no matter how hard you try or how late you stay up. We tried to consider the nature of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche when developing the 1-855-IS-IT-ART project. You don’t have to come see us. You could call us from home if you wanted to. We are less a project to go see, and more of an aide to your evening. We have trained specialists to guide you through your experience at Scotiabank Nuit Blanche to ensure that you are in fact looking at art, and have not confused performance art for drunk jackassery, or vice versa.

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

Can it be both? When a project is able to take advantage of having a roving crowd that is open to anything, some pretty interesting stuff can happen.

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?

Well, we are all pretty curious about Ai Weiwei, but luckily we’ll get to see the set-up. Also, John Dickson, Maggie Groat, Tongue and Groove. It will be full of surprises too, and the surprises are usually the best part.

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

Zero expectations. Travel in small numbers. Group stretches. Keep it limber.

**

Germaine Koh, creator of The n Games“a tournament of invented sports, involving the audience as players” at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (952 Queen Street West):

Nuit Blanche is a busy event, and it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people make time to experience your project? What will they see or experience through it?

Our project, The n Games, actually brings people into the heart of the creative problem-solving process. We’re running a rolling pick-up tournament of invented sports that visitors can join (in the courtyard of the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art). The games highlight the rule-based character of social situations, and the games themselves may evolve as the audience gets drawn in. It’ll be a satisfying experience for anyone who enjoys improvising, strategizing, and problem-solving, and tackling situations with both mind and body.

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

Why does it have to be one or the other? It’s more interesting to just talk about projects on their own terms, without feeling the need to categorize them. Many of the projects in this event sit between or outside conventional disciplines and audience relationships.

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?

I’m a fan of Charles Stankievech and was intrigued by the description of his 35mm film installation surveilling a Northern military outpost. Also within the “Romancing the Anthropocene” thematic exhibition curated by Ivan Jurakic and Crystal Mowry, I would have loved to see Peter Flemming’s Fight or flight kinetic battle between robotic fishing rods and a canoe.

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

When I previously participated in 2011, I found that the adrenaline produced from fighting the crowds meant I had no problem staying awake. Fatigue can be a real issue with physical, performance-based projects, though. We are planning to rely heavily on orange slices and hot chocolate. And we’ll call time outs.

**

Camille Turner, creator of The Resistance of Peggy Pompadour—a “sonic walking tour tells the story of an enslaved woman from the town of York (presently Toronto), whose owner, Peter Russell, lived on a farm located at Queen and Peter Streets—which begins at Women’s Art Resource Centre (401 Richmond Street West):

Nuit Blanche is a busy event, and it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people make time to experience your project? What will they see or experience through it?

My immersive 15-minute smartphone walking tour begins at WARC Gallery, travels down Spadina to Queen and ends at Peter Street. It presents the story of Peggy Pompadour, an enslaved woman who was imprisoned in Toronto’s first jail (currently the site of the King Edward Hotel) for resisting slavery. At WARC Gallery, visitors will see a full-sized replica of what the jail cell might have looked like and images on the wall of the old jail and historic documents that set the context of her life. This work will appeal to history buffs or anyone who is interested in social justice or who wants to engage in a reflection on Toronto’s past. I will be on site personally leading walks and discussing the story until 2 a.m., so come and experience the work with me. Bring your phone or borrow an MP3 player from the gallery.

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

It is both. My work is an art event but it is also socially engaged, interactive and experiential.

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 leading walks till 2 a.m. There are lots of projects I want to check out. I love Diane Borsato’s work and I want to see her beekeepers’ meditation at the AGO. I’m curious about Catwalkers on the Esplanade by Jamii and CORPUS. I’m a Mike Parsons fan and would like to experience his work as a multimedia installation at Bloor and Lansdowne. The Lightbridge piece transforming the bridge at Portland and Front into an immersive light and sound sculpture sounds beautiful, and the video installation at King and Bay reimagining an intelligence station on Ellesmere Island as a sci-fi set sounds a little like the work of one of my fave filmmakers, Werner Herzog.

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

I am passionate about my work. The adrenaline generated by speaking to and interacting with people keeps me going.

**

Cal Lane, creator of Tanks at David Pecaut Square (221 King Street West):

Nuit Blanche is a busy event, and it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people make time to experience your project? What will they see or experience through it?

My piece at Scotiabank Nuit Blanche will be an installation of oil tanks and I-beams that I have cut with an oxy-acetylene torch. Each large steel object has been carved into delicate lines of maps and lace creating line drawings of objects, objects that were once hard, heavy, functional, industrial objects that have now become corroded filigree artifacts of an industrial-obsessed time.

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

I would probably avoid calling Scotiabank Nuit Blanche either a spectacle or an art event. Both categories seem to me to come with a slight isolating context; being that it is such a public event, I think that people will experience it for what it is: people’s visual ideas and expressions.

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?

I have a few friends involved in Scotiabank Nuit Blanche so am looking forward to seeing their works: Swintak and David Harper.

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

Like many other artists I have never had regular sleep patterns, so staying up all night suits me just fine.

**

David R. Harper, creator of  This, I Build For You—which invites the viewer to observe as a 20-foot monument becomes adorned with pattern and ornamentation, as well as embroidery by the artist—at Queen’s Park Crescent East and Grosvenor Street:

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche is a busy event, and it’s impossible to see everything in one evening. Why should people make time to experience your project? What will they see or experience through it?

I think the work will evoke different reactions—it’s a quiet piece with a big presence. For those who don’t previously know my work, it will give them an opportunity to see how large art can be made through small gestures. And for those who are familiar with my practice, they are going to see something that they probably thought they would never get to see in person. That’s all I’m going to give away!

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

I think that falls on the viewer. Some of the projects invited for Nuit Blanche are definitely more spectacle-oriented, and some are more quietly engaging. I think it will depend on whoever is viewing the work to decide how they treat the event. I think there will always be an element of spectacle, even if particular projects don’t ask for it, due to the fact that it’s an art event pulled out of its comfort zone. The walls of the gallery aren’t there to protect the generally controlled dialogue of the work, and it’s left in the hands of the masses of people who will come and enjoy it either way.

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see this year? That is, what projects are you sorry to miss out on?

Because my project is both installation and performance, I will be with the work all night performing. This will keep me from taking in most of what’s going on around me. There are quite a few projects that I am sad to miss out on; these include Brendan Fernandes’s Night Shift, Charles Stankievech’s The Soniferous Aether, and Kelly Richardson’s Mariner 9, among others.

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

This is not going to be easy by any means! I think it would be different if I was able to walk around and see work, but because I will be doing a duration performance as part of the work, I have my secrets for staying up all night.

**

Michel de Broin, creator of Tortoisea series of assemblage sculptures using standard picnic tables as building blocks at Campbell House Lawn (160 Queen Street West):

Nuit Blanche is a busy evening. Why should people make time to experience your project? What will they see or experience through it?

Making time is a way of not losing time. [In experiencing the work, people] will save time, and be able to spend their savings later in the night.

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

It is a bank that doesn’t sleep. Money and art never sleep.

Presumably you will be busy all night supervising your project. What other projects do you wish you could see this year?

I will try to see it all. It is too early to say [what projects are I am sorry to miss out on].

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

I will focus on things that keep me awake.

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