5 Toronto Nuit Blanche exhibits with lasting impact
These community-minded installations will make you think and feel—and leave with a sense of hope
BY ALICIA COX THOMSON
A highlight of the fall season since 2006, Nuit Blanche transforms Toronto into a living art gallery from sunset to sunrise. The all-night celebration returns September 29, 2018, to champion artistic expression and creativity at more than 80 exhibitions, installations and performances throughout the city. This year’s curatorial theme is You Are Here, which asks pointed questions about the GTA, its citizens and their myriad stories, connections, journeys and cultures.
This year there are several stories told by and about women and people of colour around themes of social justice and community. You can take part in thought-provoking experiences inspired by stories of immigrants and refugees, and bear witness to faces and voices that traditionally have had fewer opportunities in the art world to be seen or heard. The following five exhibits contain many of these—from visual and interactive art to experiential installations you’ll never forget.
Location: The south-east corner of Nathan Phillips Square
Millions of Canadians’ lives are affected by issues that can be easy to ignore, making them feel isolated, helpless and uncertain. Creative agency TAXI production designer Michael Walker and United Way Greater Toronto created this installation together to draw attention to the impact of local social issues on individual lives. “From afar, it will look like a brightly lit box,” say Alexis Bronstorph and Kelsey Horne, executive creative directors at TAXI. “Inside, the box will be filled with fog, so those walking through will be unsure of what’s to come. We’re trying to emulate feelings of isolation and uncertainty with this piece.” Hunger, homelessness, isolation, unemployment and domestic violence are just some of the issues that #UNIGNORABLE addresses. (Photography by United Way Greater Toronto)
• Yonge Dundas Square
• Bay St. between Queen St. W and Wellington St.
• TTC Line 3 Scarborough (Kennedy Station, Lawrence East Station, Ellesmere Station, Midland Station and Scarborough Centre Station)
• Scarborough Civic Centre
“Waves of new arrivals have helped shape and define the character of Toronto, yet recognizing the full breadth of their contributions is often subjective and flawed,” says curator Tairone Bastien. “Some stories are celebrated while others are obscured, dismissed or forgotten.” This wide-ranging exhibit, one of three produced in conjunction with the city, brings the immigrant experience to vibrant life through visual art, performance, music and food. Take in eight installations across the city, from the former Ward district downtown, home to many immigrants in the early 20th century, to Scarborough, where many new Canadians are putting down roots today. Installations include the International Dumpling Festival with work by Vancouver artist Ken Lum; Mirrors of Babel, a selection of graffiti art and murals curated by artist el SEED; and In Flashing Lights, a sound installation using police cars and music by DJs from immigrant, queer and racialized communities.
Location: Scarborough Town Centre and Scarborough Civic Centre
Alyssa Fearon, the first curator of the newly added Scarborough exhibition zone, has also curated this 10-part installation celebrating the creativity of the city’s most easterly borough. Every exhibit is made by, or in collaboration with, a member of the community, which, says Fearon, is “primarily working-class immigrants, Indigenous communities and first-generation Canadians.” Highlights include Cavalier Noir, a film by Director X (who has shot videos for stars like Drake and Rihanna) in partnership with visual artist Ekow Nimako, who uses more than 80,000 Lego pieces in an installation about honouring the heroes of Scarborough; and Within, an all-night poetry slam with youth-led grassroots movement RISE (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere). (Photography by Anthony Gebrehiwot)
Arrivals and Encounters references the “Indigenous peoples, settlers, refugees, and new immigrants” who intersect in the city—and the museum. You could spend the entirety of Nuit Blanche ensconced in the Aga Khan, home to a permanent collection of Islamic and Iranian art, artifacts and history celebrating Muslim culture. While the collection is open until midnight, the museum remains open until dawn so visitors can explore 30 performances featuring more than 80 artists from around the world. Listen to traditional music in a Mongolian yurt, take part in a Sufi sama ceremony and explore street artist Javid Jah’s installation around the reflection pools.
One Path is a group of 14 women and artists whose exhibition is a multi-disciplinary, interactive, feminist celebration for, by and about women. The event includes elements of costume design, horticultural art, mosaics, painting, photography, sculpture, stained glass, videography and textiles, as well as digital and performance art. You can expect to witness female rites of passage from birth to death. W-O-M-A-N is a true celebration of the joy, pain, fear and love womanhood embodies. (Photography by City of Toronto)♥