by Lakshmi Sadhu

It truly was a sight to behold. From dusk until the wee hours of dawn on October 1, hordes of caffeine-fuelled aficionados prowled the streets of Toronto looking for their next fix. In this case their drug of choice was art.

Nuit Blanche is a yearly free event in Toronto where a variety of contemporary artists get the opportunity to showcase their thought-provoking aesthetic performances and creations. When translated directly from French, the phrase Nuit Blanche means “Sleepless Night” or “All-Nighter”. I attempted to throw out my reservations about modern art, and finally attend this year’s Nuit Blanche for the first time after a 3-year hiatus, since my first experience back in 2012 was not particularly memorable. While I never quite got onto the contemporary art bandwagon, I would still be hard-pressed to say that there are no beautiful modern art pieces at all. The statue called “Expansion” by Paige Bradley in New York is one such contemporary creation I find spiritually arresting.

"Expansion" by Paige Bradley

“Expansion” by Paige Bradley
(Image source)

The theme of Nuit Blanche this year had post-apocalyptic vibes along with militant nostalgia, both of which I found highly intriguing and which further motivated me to attend, along with my friend’s unceasing nagging. Armed with the mandatory cup of bitter java, I set forth into the concrete wilderness of Toronto, my innate skepticism my only weapon against the artsy hipsters around me in fedoras. And boy, am I glad I did.

Out of all the projects that took place, Oblivion at Nathan Philips Square/City Hall was my absolute favourite. Curated by Janine Marchessault and Michael Prokopow, Oblivion featured three exhibitions: “Ocean”, “Death of the Sun”, and “Pneuma”. The overarching flavour of Oblivion is that of transformation, of cosmic metamorphosis. It was humbling to be shown in visually vivid detail about just how vulnerable mankind and the earth are in Nature’s grand scheme of things. The first exhibit we saw was “Pneuma” (Floria Sigismondi)/ It was a short but riveting film that was projected on a fountain. It had mysterious, mystical elements that I interpreted as representing the interplay of space and time in the lap of Mother Nature. Here’s a video I shot of “Pneuma”, for those who missed it:

The second exhibit we visited was “Ocean” (Philip Beesley), which had an incredibly long line filled with people just as excited to see the exhibit as we were. It was worth every second we waited in line. The exhibit itself took place in the rotunda of City Hall. Dark recycled textiles from H&M’s Garment Collecting Initiative hung above us, swirling ominously with disorienting flickering lights against the auditory backdrop of eerie whispers, and erratic cries. I truly felt like I was in the ocean’s hadal zone, trapped with the drowned resentful souls of humans. “Ocean” was, hands down, my favourite art exhibit from the entirety of Nuit Blanche. Unfortunately, it was too dark for me to take a picture or video, but the artist’s rendering will give you an idea of what it looked like:

Artistic rendering of Ocean, copyright PBAI, 2016

Artist Rendering of “Ocean” © PBAI, 2016

Our final stop at Oblivion was at the exhibit “Death of the Sun” (Director X). The huge globe in the center of Nathan Philips Square showcased the sun going through the different phases of its life cycle, and made me contemplate just how terrifying the real event would actually be.

Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche

Overall, I’m really happy that I decided to go to Nuit Blanche this year! How was your experience, folks?