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Embrace the Zoo: A Nuit Blanche Guide
Sholem Krishtalka's recommendations for this year's all-night art menagerie

Beacon (Allison Norlen, 2012)

Nuit Blanche — oh excuse me, Scotiabank Nuit Blanche — is a strange animal. On the one hand, it’s idyllic and immensely encouraging: an entire city, out on the streets for the sole purpose of seeing art! On the other hand, it’s a complete zoo: endless line-ups, unruly crowds, public drunkenness (last year, as I passed through Yonge-Dundas Square, one teenager was encouraging the other to chug from his open whisky bottle by saying “hey man, that’s what Nuit Blanche is for!”).

And of course, when the city is blanketed by public installations, how do you choose what to see? One can easily breeze through the comprehensive website and see which projects pique your interest. In my experience, the most successful Nuit Blanche projects are the ones that embrace the zoo: interactive, bombastic and crowd-pleasing. For my money, the most exciting zone looks to be Zone C, curated by Helena Reckitt. She’s highlighted the affective and emotional, while keeping a firm eye on the necessity for spectacle. So, here are my picks for which cages — uh, I mean, art installations — to go and see. (FYI, all installations are officially curated unless otherwise noted).

Green Invaders (Yves Caizergues, 2012)

ZONE A, Curated by Shauna McCabe

Green Invaders by Yves Caizergues (Sun Life Financial Tower, 150 King St W)

The French artist uses the surface of the Sun Life building to recreate Space Invaders, the classic arcade game.

Beacon by Allison Norlen (Brookfield Place, Allen Lambert Galleria, 181 Bay St)

Drawing on the utopian architecture of 19th century world’s fairs, Norlan erects a fantastical lighthouse in the middle of the financial district.

Skylum by Andrew Kearney (CBC Building, Barbara Frum Atrium, 250 Front St W)

An inflatable zeppelin floating in the middle of the CBC building, illuminated by the density and movement of the people in the building.

Telling Stories by Daniel Barrow (independent project, The Drake Hotel 1150 Queen St W)

Barrow is known for his epically melodramatic live-animation narratives. Part of the immense joy of a Barrow performance is its intimacy; while this might be lost in the hubbub of Queen West during Nuit Blanche, it’s nevertheless worth a gander.

The Bruised Garden by Caroline Azar and GB Jones (independent project, The Theatre Centre Pop-Up, 1095 Queen St W)

The founders of quintessential Toronto queercore band Fifth Column reunite to create an interactive sound installation, structured around the rarified artificiality of the urban garden.

All Night Convenience (Rhonda Wheppler and Trevor Mahovsky, 2012)

ZONE B, Curated by Christina Ritchie

All Night Convenience, by Rhonda Wheppler and Trevor Mahovsky (Bay Adelaide Centre, 333 Bay St)

The pair have constructed a huge 300-square-foot lantern, filled with smaller lanterns; people are encouraged to take one to light their way through the white night.

40-part Motet by Janet Cardiff (independent project, Trinity-St Paul’s Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts, 427 Bloor St W)

The indescribably gorgeous sound piece; 40 speakers arranged in a wide semi-circle, in which each speaker plays the individual voice singing a piece of Renaissance choral music.

Earth-Moon-Earth (Katie Paterson, 2007)

ZONE C, Curated by Helena Reckitt

Earth-Moon-Earth, by Katie Paterson (Elgin Theatre, 160 Victoria St)

The artist beamed the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata to the moon and back, and transcribed the data that returned; irregularities in the moon’s surface resulted in a hauntingly mangled version of Beethoven’s score, full of ellipses and missed notes.

Moth Maze, by Oliver Husain (Green P Parking Lot, 87 Richmond St E)

Husain’s work is structured around elaborately theatrical mise-en-scenes. For Nuit Blanche, he has constructed a live-cinematic labyrinth, in which participants become performers in a voyage through a mysterious forested landscape.

The Day After, Tomorrow, by Dave Dyment (King James Place, 145 King St E)

The artist has spliced together apocalyptic scenes from doomsday movies. Dyment has arranged them geographically, so you can watch the world end, country by country, and then saunter off, get a coffee and revel in the sunrise.

Tremolo by Maeve Brennan and Ruth Ewan (Rainbow Cinema Market Square, 80 Front St E)

Possibly the most awkward of the Nuit Blanche performances. Maeve Brennan is a pianist with incurable stage fright, and so she decided to incorporate her anxiety-driven flubs and mistakes into her performances. For Nuit Blanche, she will perform an all-night concert; watch her struggle for you and because of you.


Sholem Krishtalka is the Toronto Standard’s art critic.

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