Insomniacs and art admirers alike were called upon to attend the 13th annual Nuit Blanche Toronto, an all-night celebration of contemporary art. Consisting of projects by over 300 local, national, and international artists and curators, the festival explores an overarching theme of the evolving and storied landscape of what Toronto is, and what it can be. As the festival’s visitors brave long line-ups and view remarkable artwork throughout the night, we are pushed to think of our roles as individuals and as a collective in this moment.
Wherever we are around the world, we see the same sky when we tilt our heads up to look. One Sky, an installation by SYSTEM Sounds, allows viewers to experience a starry map of Toronto’s night sky as depicted via an auditory planetarium show. Upon entering the large black tent, I find myself under a geometric, dark blue dome, dotted with specks of bright light resembling stars. The symphonic sounds directly reflect the stars, according to its temperature and brightness, such that the lower the temperature of the star, the lower the pitch. One star blinked brighter than the rest at one point, prompting a sound of higher volume. Though a simulation, stargazing as a collective bunch whilst listening to serene music was memorable for me.
Bright lights and calming sounds also seemed to be a theme of the night as incorporated in Passage by Mississauga-based artist group smjilk. Transforming an ordinary alley near Bloor Street, smjilk built an interactive pathway of light and motion. The sculpture is framed with mirrors along the sides and bound with white string surrounding visitors whom walk through. Passage removes us from the urban setting we are accustomed to and represents the ways we may challenge and shape it.
All four of the Bata Shoe Museum’s current exhibitions were open for the duration of Nuit Blanche. Starting her internationally-acclaimed collection of footwear as a personal passion project, Sonja Bata established the specialized museum in 1995 that chronicles the evolution of shoes and related artifacts. The architecture of the building itself was designed in a shoe-box shape, fitting for all the shoes it houses. The museum’s oldest piece of footwear, dating back to 3100 BCE, is a shoe reminiscent of a modern-day clog: it belonged to the Ötzi Man and is made of bearskin and twined linden bark. For every major time period since, a model of the typical shoe reflective of the time’s culture is displayed, including chunky platforms from the Renaissance era and glamorous stilettos from the 50’s.
Another installation located in the museum was Interwoven, performed by Hajar Moradi, which aims to visually and symbolically connect our various narratives and backgrounds. Throughout the night, Moradi weaves a Gabbeh: a tribal woven run specific to the nomads of Iran, and invites us to participate in its creation. Each viewer would choose five coloured stickers to place on provided cardstock that represented our story or just spoke to us. My colour palette consisted of cream, green, lavender, red, and the cream color again, while my friend chose all red. We dropped our cards in a basket next to Moradi, and she would weave our colours into her rug. Her project helps illustrate that wherever you are from and however your personality and story shapes who you are, we are all interwoven.
Nuit Blanche Toronto 2018 ran from sunset to sunrise on September 29-30.