Nuit Blanche: Lori-Lee Emshey hits the major hotspots


The 6 p.m. UTM shuttle was full. A crowd had gathered by 5:45 p.m., each person vying for one of the 52 seats going downtown. Nuit Blanche was to start in exactly one hour. A harassed bus driver shouted to the unruly crowd that there was only one bus on Saturday and that he’d try to call for an overflow bus, which finally arrived an hour later. UTM did not anticipate the popularity of Nuit Blanche—an all-night, interactive art festival now in its sixth year—among its students.

At 7 p.m., Hart House opened its AIRship exhibit. On the third floor, six helium, light-filled blips fought against weighted glass spheres to float to the top of the Hart House ceiling. The night launched to a turbulent start when one of the blimps starting leaking helium, but it was quickly fixed by one of the designers.

By 7:45, the ROM’s Bollywood exhibit was almost at capacity. Also located on the third floor, it too was worth the walk. On pink, orange, and yellow walls—a deviation from the ROM’s trademark white and black—were posters of Bollywood films from the 1950s to 1980s. By walking chronologically through the gallery you could see how the posters (and wall colour) reflected the economic and cultural climate for each decade.

At 8:30 (and on the other side of downtown) Isabelle Hayeur’s Ascension was gaining popularity, although there was no real lineup yet. This exhibit took place in the Metropolitan United Church, or was the church itself, depending on your perspective. The exhibit was quiet and patrons filled the pews as in a movie theater and watched as a projection of a cathedral aisle blurred in and out of focus. Despite its simplicity, people were reluctant to move on and give up their seats; instead, they slumped in the pews and waited for the film to start again.

One more notable interactive piece was I just know that something good is going to happen by Curtis Grahauer. On Adelaide Street, an alley was converted into an interactive sculpture involving movie-set-style rain, smoke, and fog machines. Nuit Blanche patrons were loaned an umbrella and could walk through the alley while being photographed and filmed. Many were disappointed when there was nothing on the other side, while others thought someone had set off the fire alarm sprinklers. But the disappointment and confusion quickly evaporated when they were shown the cinematic and classic pictures just made from their interaction, making the exhibit a favourite of the night.