Russian cosmonauts and yellow school buses at Nuit Blanche

The literal English translation of Nuit Blanche is “White Night,” a term used to describe a natural phenomenon that occurs at high latitudes where the dusk meets the dawn. It refers to a night without darkness; a night for new discoveries; a sleepless night.

From sunset at 7:01pm on Saturday, Sept. 30 to sunrise at 7:15am on Sunday, Oct.1, Toronto will be buzzing with activity when the barriers come down between art and public space. For one sleepless night the city will become an artistic playground for a series of exhilarating contemporary art experiences. Sponsored by Scotiabank, Nuit Blanche is a free city-wide event featuring more than 130 contemporary art projects. While centred in the downtown core, York University will have a significant presence in Nuit Blanche with projects by visual arts Professor Nina Levitt and Emelie Chhangur, assistant curator, Art Gallery of York University (AGYU).

Levitt will showcase her new video projection during the all-night celebration. Titled Comrade Valentina,  it tells the story of cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. The projection will be shown outside on the façade of the revived Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen Street West.

The Russian space rocket, Vostok 6, was launched on June 16, 1963 at 09:30am GMT, with a 26-year-old female cosmonaut aboard. In a dual orbit with male cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky launched one day earlier, the two spacecraft briefly came within 5km of each other. Tereshkova circled the earth 48 times, completing two days, 22 hours and 50 minutes, more than the flight time of the three American astronauts who preceded her put together.

Levitt has compiled rare television footage of Tereshkova’s solo flight, shot from inside her tiny space capsule. The cosmonaut’s haunting voice will echo through the night air as she tries to make contact with ground control: “Vesna one. Vesna one. I am chaika (trans: seagull). Do you hear me? I am chaika. Over.”

As the assistant curator of the AGYU, Chhangur incorporates her bus sense into the gallery’s exhibits. She and AGYU curator Philip Monk have a history with buses: their Perfomance Bus has transported downtown residents to openings and exhibits at the AGYU for years.

In the performance project The Toronto Public Transit Performance Commission (TPTPC), which will be launched at Nuit Blanche, Changhur has mapped out an intrepid network of three yellow school buses which will run counter-clockwise throughout the city all night long. Those who board the buses are in for a unique transportation and artistic experience.

For more information visit the Nuit Blanche Web site.