York talent showcased in this weekend’s Nuit Blanche

What better reason for a sleepless night than a city-wide exploration and celebration of contemporary art?

York University’s Fine Arts faculty and alumni are among the 750 artists who will transform Toronto’s downtown core into a gigantic showcase of creativity at Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, taking place Saturday, Oct. 4, from dusk to dawn.

In this extraordinary public cultural event, Toronto residents are invited to discover and interact with art through curated exhibitions and independent projects – not just in galleries and museums, but on streets, in parks and in unexpected venues in between. From bridges and tunnels to warehouses and stadiums, there are more than 155 destinations to visit from 6:52pm to sunrise.

While it’s not possible to see everything in 12 short hours, this overview of York talent involved in the event may help chart your path.

Theatre alumnus Matthew Romantini (BFA ’05) choreographs Bridging the Gap, a piece inspired by the subversive Japanese dance form of Butoh. The performers, including dance graduate Cara Spooner (BFA ’07) and theatre alumna Brandy Leary (BA ’98), are body-painted to represent puzzle pieces that ultimately merge into a cohesive mural. Mingling with the crowds, they will gather audiences onto an historic TTC streetcar heading to the Parkdale Village Town Square at the corner of Queen Street West and Cowan Avenue. Dancers, buskers and a community art wall where the audience paints the mural await them there.

Right: Bridging the Gap, choreographed by theatre alumnus Matthew Romantini, uses body painting and puzzles to create a mural

Lyla Rye (BFA ’89) transforms the Metro Central YMCA on Grosvenor St. into Dream Home, a video installation that creates an illusion of imaginative architecture. Projected on the slimmest of possible façades, the dollhouse in the video, plays out our most basic fears about shelter. The piece creates a convolution of interior/exterior, miniature/architecture, solidity/fragility.

Multimedia installation artist Brendan Fernandes (BFA 02) presents Future (…—…) Perfect in the parking lot between Mowat and Fraser Avenues, south of Liberty St. His towering installation of shipping containers will be pulsing with a lighting score indicating S-O-S in Morse code, addressing the trauma of migration, displacement and change.

Music Professor Stephanie Martin performs with Schola Magdalena, a women’s medieval singing ensemble based out of Toronto’s historic Church of St. Mary Magdalene, where Martin is music director. Their repertoire is drawn from liturgical traditions ranging from Gregorian chant to the compositions of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) and the polyphonic masterpieces of Guillaume Dufay (1399-1474). The Schola revives ancient pedagogical practices by learning music as an autonomous collective rather than following a conductor. Catch the Schola at 11pm the St. Thomas’ Church on Huron Street.

Left: The video installation Dream Home, by Lyla Rye (BFA ’89)

The world premiere of Stable Dances in the historic Casa Loma Stables harnesses a team of York talent for a site-specific dance performance, live video and music installation. The concept team behind this show was also behind Bird’s Eye View, hailed by the Toronto Star as the "No. 1 Greatest Hit of Nuit Blanche 2007".

Director Karen Kaeja (BFA ’84) has assembled more than two dozen of Toronto’s finest dancers and choreographers including York dance Professor Holly Small; alumni Sally Morgan (BFA ’08), Julia Wyncoll (BFA ’91) and Megan Andrews (BFA ’93, MA ’01); current dance faculty member and graduate student Susan Lee (BFA ’90); and current MFA student Allen Kaeja to present 10-minute dance solos of their own creation. Works are performed on a rotating schedule with several dances taking place in separate stalls simultaneously and audiences free to graze the performances at will. Between the solo dances, viewers are invited to join in an evolving improvised ‘flocking/herding’ dance in the Stables Carriage Room.

Throughout the 12-hour performance, fine arts cultural studies Professor Don Sinclair will present live video integration and projection of the dancers and the participating public on large screens and fogwalls using technology developed by film Professor and Canada Research Chair Caitlin Fisher‘s Future Cinema Lab.

Right: Stable Dances features a live video and music installation

Visual arts Professors Yam Lau and Barbara Balfour and alumna Sunny Kerr (MFA ’06) are part of the team behind the innovative and interactive Vehicle installation, a multi-car, multi-artist exploration of the aesthetic possibilities of the car as a site of community contact. Organized by the WayUpWayDown artist collective with the University of Toronto Art Centre (UTAC), the work is presented inside the UTAC building and around its parking lot. The audience will discover cars transformed into mobile art galleries, trampoline-activated Second Life bodies, custom built Xbox games, and architectural interventions.

Kerr’s contribution is a group effort with several artists and the Toronto Subaru Club (TSC) titled "Meet". For one night only, WayUpWayDown and the TSC join each other’s clubs with a collaboration featuring rally cars lighting each other with their headlights and a car being tied to a building among other automobile-related works.

Balfour’s piece, "Too Early for Stars", collects text fragments from a poem by Virginia Woolf and displays them on the gallery wall, with a duplicate set of the same texts on Lau’s car. The work illuminates Woolf’s descriptions of the interplay of waning natural light, the moving car’s electric headlights, and the emergence of stars in the night sky.

Vehicle was born out of Lau’s collaboration with Tania Ursomarzo to design a "mobile kiosk". It is a completely transparent acrylic drawer unit that fits into the hatchback of his own Subaru to function as a portable exhibition space presenting artists’ books and multiples. In 2006, the mobile kiosk won the Best of Canada Product Design Award from Toronto’s Design Exchange

Since Toronto’s first Nuit Blanche celebration in 2006, Visiting Professor Bill Kirby’s online Contemporary Canadian Art database, a project now hosted by York’s Department of Visual Arts, has been engaged by the city to document the event’s curated works (45 this year). Kirby is engaging several York film and photography students to go out into the night and collect images and footage for the website.To see the last two years of documentation visit the Nuit Blanche Web site.The 2008 record will be posted shortly after the event.

Modelled after an event conceived in Paris, France, Toronto’s Nuit Blanche started three years ago with over 400 artists and curators, 500 staff and volunteers, and an audience of 425,000 sleepless Toronto residents. In 2007, the starry sky was the limit with 45 per cent increase in projects, a 55 per cent increase in community participation, and close to double the attendance, securing its place as one of Canada’s major cultural events. Toronto’s success has inspired similar celebrations throughout North America, including in San Francisco, New York, Miami and Chicago.