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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

NUIT BLANCHE: Open call for Yeahs & Nahs

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So according to Toronto Special Events almost a million folks apparently took in Nuit Blanche last night.

At first to me that seemed a little hard to believe as crowds seemed quite sparse in Zone B… though I guess Yonge-Dundas Square made up for it.

I myself did a rather quick tour of some of what promised to be the big sights of Nuit Blanche—knowing full well, of course, that many of the best Nuit Blanche experiences happen when you have time to take in stuff on the fly. In any case, here’s my starter yeahs & nahs. I look forward to hearing what other people thought and experienced.

Yeah: Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace installation, especially the wish trees. As artist Sholem Kristalka pointed out in his preview in Xtra this week, the concept here could be called a bit glib and ineffectual. But in person, it was really delightful. I think people were really inspired by the image—trees bearing wishes—as well as the wishes some people wrote. (The best one I saw was “Beatles Reunion”.)

Nah: Michel de Broin’s Waterfall. I love a lot of what pedal-car maker Michel de Broin does, but this came off as a little less spectacular than I had hoped. Maybe that was the point, and all, but adding water to a building like this made me think “garden accessory.”

Yeah: Attendees really engaging and looking for meaning in the art. Being someone who works in the industry as an art writer, I tend to get cynical or glib in my own interpretations of work from time to time. But I was really impressed to overhear conversations of people really trying to explore the artwork with their friends. For example at Barr Gilmore’s shrunken Honest Ed’s sign in Court House Square, the young folks were talking psychogeography “You think, shouldn’t I be at Bathurst and Bloor?” to more morbid realms: “Ed Mirvish is dead… is honesty too?” Not everyone agrees with these approaches to art, but it was so great to hear people dig into things that way—er, that way being with enthusiasm and lack of guile.

Nah: The lack of signage from the Exhibition Place streetcar stop to the Zone C info booth. We got off the streetcar with a horde of folks eager to do “Zone C, yo”. But as soon as they emerged from the streetcar doors they promptly walked south into the exhibition grounds rather than continuing west to the railroad underpass and up into Liberty Village. I’m sure they figured it out eventually, but some signage might have helped.

Yeah: 15 Seconds of Fame at Yonge-Dundas Square by Daniel Olson. Definitely got the crowd looking at each other, even if it produced many cheesy responses in the spotlight.

Nah: Seeing a homeless man stuck trying to get some sleep as crowds trooped by his alleyway alcove-cum-installation-art zone near Victoria and Shuter. Again, love Quebec trio BGL’s work in drop-ceiling installations; didn’t love the disregard the event showed here to the homeless.

Yeah: Guns n’ Roses soundtrack tunes for Jon Sasaki’s I Promise It Will Always Be This Way at Lamport Stadium

Nah: The Earth and Sky banner hung indoors near York and Station streets–I got the idea from its past installation shots that it was to be strung between buildings, and higher up. Bummer, especially because the related show at Feheley Fine Arts in Yorkville is interesting.

Yeah: Rita McKeough’s mini-oil pumps near Esplanade and Yonge; reminded me so much of Alberta, of the landscape that makes cities across the country hum. Overlapping these landscapes really worked for me in an interesting way.

Nah: The amount of walking in uninteresting areas you had to do to get between venues at times. It seems that because of that my experience lacked the intensity of my initial Nuit Blanche (though, I must admit, it lacked a bit of the claustrophobic crowding as well.)

Post on!

Photo by ltdan



  1. Yeah: John Oswald’s STILLNESSENCE at the Rainbow Cinema lived up to my expectations, having seen some of his work at the Edward Day Gallery a couple of years ago.

    Nah: Artists who go big, but not big enough. Ryerson’s Devonian pond would have been much more impressive if the whole surface was teeming with rubber ducks, instead there was maybe 50 or so stuck in a ring with a smoke machine while a dozen inflatable decoys were blown to the edge of the pond. Boring!

    Yeah: As Dylan Reid explained in the other post, Blinkenlights’ Stereoscope was a sight to behold!

    Nah:Fujiwara Takahiro’s Into The Blue at the Eaton Centre. I had my reservations about looking at an inflatable blue bee hive, but since Now Magazine recommended it I thought I’d keep an open mind. When I finally saw it I was a bit underwhelmed since it also was a bit too small for the venue. Staring up at it in the centre of the floor produced some interesting effects, but there was little interaction with the form and the building’s light sources making the work something of a missed opportunity.

    Yeah: The volunteer who kindly gave me one of his extra maps after the info station ran out of them.

    Nah: The teenage girls who sat in on John Oswald’s STILLNESSENCE and laughed their silly heads off like they’d never seen a naked man in their lives.

    Yeah: Managing to catch Daniel Olson’s 15 seconds of attention thanks to some bubble soap and a wand I brought with me.

  2. Yeah: Getting into Maple Leaf Gardens. I didn’t get the art films hung from either side of the ice surface, but really appreciated getting to see the building (which apart from the missing auctioned seats looked like it was still in decent shape).

    Nah: Zombies in Condoland. I didn’t really have that much interest, but passed by from MLG to Queen’s Park, so checked it out anyway. It seemed that the huge crowd standing and sitting there demanding to see zombies were in fact, the zombies.

    Yeah: Stereoscope. Kudos for opening the walkways and podium.

    Nah: Earth and Sky too. It should have been over a street, a narrow one, like nearby Piper Street, would have been great.

    Yeah: Shrinking the zones. I got to see most of Zones A and B that I wanted to, before heading home at a reasonable time (wanting to avoid waiting an hour for the 310 Bathurst Night Bus like last year because the driver of one run just never bothered to show up). But Yonge from Queen to College could have been closed, and move some of the exhibits there. Same with a few other locales.

    Nah: The businesses that didn’t get the message that this would be going on, but their loss. The Starbucks and the Timothy’s at Yonge and Bay could have had a great night. I saw the line up at Timmy’s that went out the door with one person taking orders.

  3. i liked STILLNESSENCE as well, but while we were there it was a pair of old ladies who wouldn’t stop cackling.

    the exhibit at maple leaf gardens was totally hypnotic.

    there was a show in zone B involving mounties and a piano which was absurd and hilarious.

    the don coyote opera exhibit was great too.

    one thing that really annoyed me: the ONLY exhibit to get front-page treatment in any of the media was the zombie walk, which was the least inspiring and least impressive thing i saw all night, and the only one that led me to ask, “how is that art?”

  4. Hey guys,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Michael > I think I saw a version of STILLNESSENCE at Edward Day Gallery a while back, wish I could have seen it again, very hypnotic.

    Also you’re right on the big/not big enough thing. It’s hard to gauge when you’re planning works for such massive spaces.

    Jeeff & Sean > I’m sorry I missed the Don Coyote and Maple Leaf Gardens too

    Winston > Interesting comment on the big blue balloon; I also thought it was better in concept than in execution. Or I pictured how great it would have been hung really quite close to the floor, maybe just six feet away — though I think one would have needed an environment with tighter crowd controls to do that. Yes, a bit of a disappointment.

    Overall, I do wonder what recommendations I’d have for the organizers. I think the idea of having a few works closer together could be good.

    Also, I continue to be amazed at the number of artists who essentially work for free to make these projects happen. The Blinkenlights guys were basically volunteering, though their expenses were paid they did not receive any kind of fee… to which I say “only in the art world, baby.” If you had a pyrotechnics co. pull off a similar scale of work, it would have cost big big bucks.