Was it just a dream? Bodi Bold

Sleep is for the weak – at least when the rest of the city is out exploring and experiencing live art. The fifth annual all-night art fest drew crowds Saturday, despite the wet and the cold. Here's a re-cap of the highs and lows of this year’s Nuit Blanche.

Borderline nightmare
Flightpath Toronto – Nathan Phillips Square

It’s hard to tell who was more disappointed by this “participatory spectacle” – the spectators or the participants. Four towers, about 1-storey high flanked the Nathan Phillips Square’s centre, where quiet electronic music and lame lazer show failed to set the mood. On each tower stood a person, struggling to get into a giant bird suit. Once outfitted, the lone birds approached their take off points and slowly put put puttered across a low hanging zip line. It went on over and over again as onlookers gawked from below. Anticlimactic barely begins to describe the viewer’s experience. What about the guys in the bird suits? Zohair, one eager participant did say he was excited to fly like a bird. Of course, that was only after he explained that he’d been waiting for his turn for a full hour – and that was with a ‘skip the line’ VIP pass!

Totally dreamy
AirSHIP – 2nd floor Hart House, U of T

The 2nd floor of Hart House held an otherworldly display of delicate, hand-welded, clear plastic air blimps. The helium filled critters were lit up from the inside and looked like a cross between WWII airships and giant jelly-fish. Ambient electronic music filled the exhibit room. The original score from local digital composer Azzo quietly suggested viewers pipe down, look up and take the work in. And they did, pausing to gaze at these whimsical objects that floated calmly above the chaotic crowds filtering through. What appeared to be a work of pure magic was in fact the painstaking design of Engineering and Architecture students from U of T and the University of Waterloo.

Aural escape
Audio Graffiti - Artscape Wychwood Barns

The highlight of the Wychwood Barns exhibits was this ‘collaborative collage of sounds’ as U of T post-doc Ashley Lebner described it. Armed with headphones and an iPod listeners walked through a space where past participants had tagged walls with their signature sounds. The closer you got to a wall, the louder the ‘audio graffiti’ became. A looped soundtrack formed the musical backdrop. Giving momentary respite from the chaos of Nuit Blanche crowds, Lebner loved the work because it gave viewers a perfect balance of active and passive participation.

Post-bedtime playtime
Teen Spirit at Toronto Underground Cinema; Singin’ in the Dark: 80’s Edition at TIFF Bell Lightbox, & burlesque at The Drake Hotel

Coming in from the cold was key to enjoying the night. Thankfully a number of well-worn Toronto art spaces opened their doors. Tough to pass off as art, but undeniably fun, Singin’ in the Dark at the TIFF Lightbox was a crowd-pleaser. Here, clips from mainstream 80’s flicks hit the big screen. They were set to the songs we remember them for – think Flashdance and Dirty Dancing’s smoking hot dance competition scenes. Aided by karaoke text, audiences sang, danced and were charmed by artist Shane Smith’s animating antics. Another flashback, this time to the grunge era, went down over at The Toronto Underground Cinema. Here various local bands played Nirvana`s Smells Like Teen Spirit 144 consecutive times. Headache inducing? Maybe, but if you got sick of listening you too could play rock star. Spectators were encouraged to sign up and join the band to pretend perform on stage. For something fresh, the Drake served up a Nuit Blanche variety show including a little burlesque. The appeal went beyond performers’ sexy attire. The creative use of a toilet as a percussion instrument was just one way that the girls kept viewers guessing.

Additional Info

  • Subtitle: The best and worst of Nuit Blanche 2011
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