Nuit Blanche: One Night of Art in Toronto

Posted by Renee Piechocki, Oct 18, 2012 1 comment

Two years ago I went on my first trip to Toronto and fell in love with the city and their all-night arts event Nuit Blanche. Projects like Kim Adams’ Auto Lamp made me vow to come back again:

It was a good resolution!

This year, I made my way up on September 28, driving 5.5 hours from Pittsburgh with my bike on the back of my car. Toronto is a bike-friendly city, with dedicated bike lanes, bike racks, and bike shops. Once I parked my car on Friday night, I did not see it again until it was time to drive home on Sunday afternoon.

Many of my trips tend to be a bit of a busman’s holiday, and this one was no exception. I had a list of Nuit Blanche projects to see as well as some permanent pieces commissioned by Jane Perdue through the Percent for Public Art Program. Biking gave me the chance to avoid traffic, explore more of the city than I could have on foot, and enjoy the fantastic fall weather.

Nuit Blanche started at 7:03 pm on September 29 and lasted until sunrise on September 30. This is a sleepless night of a diverse crowd of tens of thousands of people. There were over 150 projects to explore in three zones.

I started my adventure at bit earlier than expected with Christian Marclay’s mesmerizing The Clock at the Powerplant. I beat some of the crowds by getting there at 4:00 pm. When I left at 8:00, there were 40 people on line.

After a bike ride back to my hotel and a quick dinner, I was back on the street to see as many of the one-night installations as I could.

Some of the most memorable for me this year were:

City Hall and Nathan Phillip’s Square were transformed by several projects curated by Janine Marchessault and Michael Prokopow as Museum for the End of the WorldSeveral artists took advantage of the already-creepy, multi-level parking garage beneath City Hall.

Throughout my visit, I kept wondering how I could convince my colleagues at the Pittsburgh Parking Authority to consider using one of our garages back home.

"White Dwarf" by An Te Liu

A detail of one of the many tableaux vivants in Douglas Coupland’s "Museum of the Rapture."

"Quasar 2.0: Star Incubator," a light and sound installation by Jean Michel Crettaz and Mark-David Hosale.

Sarah Beck’s installation "Postcards from the End" enabled visitors consider how they would compose the photo of their very last blog post or tweet.

Zone A was curated by Shauna McCabe as Drift, a series of projects that aimed to transform architecture and landscape.

Matthew Moore, a farmer and an artist, drew applause with his video installation "Lifecycles." The crowd found the life cycle of zucchini particularly riveting!

"Green Invaders" by Yves Caizergues was another crowd pleaser.

Zone C: Helena Reckitt was the curator for that zone, Once More With Feeling

By the time I visited these projects, it was nearly 3:00 a.m.! If only I had taken that disco nap I planned for, but I was too captivated by The Clock. I ended the evening with two projects I am glad I did not miss.

This installation was a reenactment of Trisha Brown Dance Company’s "Planes, 1968." It was captivating. I heard the man behind me say “I have been standing here for 35 minutes and I just realized those are real people.”

One of the most quiet and beautiful works was "Earth Moon Earth – Moonlight Sonata Reflected from the Surface of the Moon" by Katie Paterson.

In bed by 4:00 am, I was sorry to have missed all of Zone B, but I had to get some sleep for my mission the next day. I was back on my bike by 11:00 to visit a few permanent installations including James Turrell’s Straight Flush at Bay Adelaide Centre and Acconci Studio’s project at WaterParkCity.

If you are bored with designers and artists commissioned through percent for art programs being pushed to the periphery, along with the sometimes boring projects that come out of those conditions, this one may change your mind. The black metal lines/threads that surround the building transform from canopy, to fence, to seating. It was hard not to love a project that helped me to meet two strangers.

At first glance, it looks as if the seating area gives you the chance to be alone, but in public, since the seats do not face each other. But when you sit down, you realize that the ribbons connect seats together, broadcasting your movements to a stranger in the courtyard who is connected to you by a thread. Conversation certainly followed.


On my way out of town, I was grateful about getting lost when I came across Underpass Park by Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg The Planning Partnership, with an artwork Mirage by Paul Raff. A playground, skate park, and a nice last surprise on my visit. If your community has been struggling with trying to transform an underpass to a place, benchmark this project!

Underpass Park

What did you think of Renee's Nuit Blanche? Now that the movement has spread, how are your local Nuits Blanche going?

1 responses for Nuit Blanche: One Night of Art in Toronto


October 23, 2012 at 6:08 am

Toronto is no stranger to art exhibitions. Nuit Blanche is just one of the art events organized in the city from time to time.

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