Hey Dave! York talent will be all over Nuit Blanche

Toronto, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Tokyo are among a handful of the cities around the world that have embraced the concept of spending a sleepless night in a city-wide celebration of contemporary art. An overnight success at its launch in 2006, Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Toronto has become a full-blown sensation with close to a million visitors last year. This year’s festival promises to match, if not surpass, that record.

Right: Paulette Phillips’ As Could Be. Photo by Alex McLeod

York talent will be there, helping to draw in the crowds and to animate the city’s parks, galleries, churches, grocery stores, chimney stacks, bus stations and many other unexpected locations, from sunset to sunrise starting Saturday, Oct. 3 at 6:55pm. More than 130 original projects created by some 500 artists will be available to discover, explore and experience, free of charge.

Here is an overview of some of the creative presentations York will be serving up.

Visual arts Professor Jennifer Fisher is co-curator of Nuit Blanche’s Zone B. Dubbed Nightsense, the zone presents visual and "extra-visual" artworks within the shadowy world of Toronto’s financial district after dark. From addressing market destabilization (Monopoly with Real Money led by Iain Baxter) to exploring the region’s disenfranchised history (Gone Indian by Rebecca Belmore), the projects will invite a reconsideration of the sensory economy.

Left: Ice Queen: Glacial Retreat Dress Tent. Photo by Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao

As graduate program director in art history, Fisher started the new PhD in art history and visual culture, one of the first doctoral programs for curatorial and museum studies in Canada.

Winnipeg collaborators Shawna Dempsey (BA ’86) and Lorri Millan were commissioned to create Wild Ride. Two midway rides on Bay Street, staffed by recently downsized businesspeople, will invite audience members to kinetically contemplate the ups and downs of the recent economic crisis.

Also in Zone B, theatre Professor Michael Greyeyes has collaborated with visual artist Rebecca Belmore on Gone Indian. He will choreograph and perform a 12-hour solo performance work to Aboriginal powwow and hip hop music. Wearing a traditional Grqass Dance outfit, he will dance in the back of a powwow-inspired pick-up truck, which Belmore will drive around the Bay & Wellington area.

Right: The Lost and Found Forest installation

What were we before?, a part of Zone A at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas Streets, will focus on participation, interaction and inclusivity, where visitors will engage in individualized encounters with art.

Toronto artist Paulette Phillips (MFA ’08) was commissioned to create a three-dimensional animation projected onto fog, accompanied by an immersive sound piece – a work she calls As Could Be. The animation is based on an architectural model designed by the Russian artist Vladmir Tatlin, who proposed (but never built) a monument representing the utopian harmonious relationship between technology and labour. The audio is a musical composition of interviews with Torontonians about what work means to them.  

Left: Dance of the Cranes performance art. Photo by Brandon Vickerd

Cara Spooner (BFA ’07) and her American collaborators Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao will showcase their new creation, Ice Queen: Glacial Retreat Dress Tent. This ten-foot towering iceberg dress will be animated by Butoh-inspired dance and glacial imagery, investigating the catastrophic effects of global warming.

Zone A’s other half, The Circle with a Hole in the Middle, will surround City Hall with a carnival atmosphere and a circus of ideas. Projects will range from a sculpture that evokes Alice’s looking glass and a rabbit’s hole (Jeff Koon’s Rabbit) to the sounds of an invisible parade filling the courtyard of Toronto’s Old City Hall (Anitra Hamilton’s Audio Parade: Field Recording #3).

Right: Jennifer Fisher and Jim Drobnick, curators of Zone B

A diverse team from four Ontario cities will team up in the performance work Hey Dave! Toronto’s Dave Clarke and Chris Hanney, Burlington’s Morgan Russell (BA ‘07), Ottawa’s Sandi Becker (BA Spec. Hons. ‘03) and Elliot Lake’s Jen Cameron  will invite the audience to step right up and say “Hey, Dave!” A simple hello will do, with perhaps a handshake or two.

Many York projects will be clustered in Zone C in Liberty Village area. The zone’s Urban Disaster/Catastrophe/Survival Actions theme will address the universal human ability to accommodate and survive memories of war, disaster and catastrophe.

Professor Brandon Vickerd’s Dance of the Cranes, a collaborative performance piece consisting of a 13-minute choreographed dance, will be performed by two high-rise construction cranes. Rina Grosman (BFA ’07) collaborated with Jerome McGrath to create the multimedia installation The Lost and Found Forest. The forest is manufactured from thousands of nails and string within a sound and light portal. Walking through the portal is a meditation on the trees lost in the name of urban growth.

Left: Wild Ride, multimedia performance art

This year’s visual arts grads Meiko Maruyama, Stephanie Nicoló and Annie Si-Wing Tung, as well as upper level students Jessica Thalmann and Maggie Flynn are the creative team behind Take Shelter, which will invite viewers to build a shelter using canned food and cardboard boxes. People will be encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to contribute to the installation, and will be free to take food if needed.

York faculty, students and alumni will also be featured among the independent projects.

Design Professor Michael Longford teamed up with alumnus Geoffrey Shea (MFA ‘09), who is a professor at OCAD, along with Rob King, head of applied research and production at the Canadian Film Centre, to lead an interdisciplinary team of graduate and undergraduate students from design, visual art, music and business to create an Apple iPhone/iPod touch application called Tentacles. Nuit Blanche will mark the game’s world premiere. Tentacles will be playing at the Lennox Gallery (12 Ossington Avenue). Players can download the application from the Apple Apps store, turning their device into a mobile game controller that enables them to participate in a multi-user game projected onto the front of the gallery. Players will be immersed in a virtual pool of darkness evoking the ocean depths. Each player will control a primitive squid-like sea creature searching for food, growing in size and interacting with other user-controlled creatures.

Right: Hey Dave! photography. Photo by Morgan Russell

Music Professor Stephanie Martin and her women’s music ensemble Schola Magdalena will perform Gregorian chant and medieval polyphony at St. Thomas’ Church, 383 Huron St. at 8:25pm. Their performance is part of St Thomas’ project Through a Glass Darkly, which features various artists, musicians and poets in a celebration of Galileo’s discoveries through the telescope 400 years ago and the subsequent exploration of the universe.

Dance Professor Holly Small choreographed and performed for a sound and video installation titled Sky Harp: Ghost Tree,conceived by Kristi Allik and Robert Mulder. Inspired by a 90-year-old elm tree, audiences can view the work at the Canadian Music Centre at 20 St. Joseph St.

Left: Take Shelter installation. Photo by Jessica Thalmann

The York Dance Ensemble will join a group of 20 dancers in Meagan O’Shea’s dance like no one is watching. Mixing contemporary dance with mobile, the performers will wander the city, mixing with the crowd and bursting into spontaneous movement improvisation and choreography.

Dance like no one is watching will travel from the Distillery District through downtown, north to Casa Loma and Wychwood Art Barns, back down through the Annex, into Kensington Market, then along Queen West to Liberty Village.

In addition, York sociology Professor Katherine Bischoping will curate Things Fall Apart at the Laluque Atelier Gallery, 1362 Bathurst St., which will include the work of three York alumni, Sarah Lochhead (BFA Spec. Hons. ’05), Michelle Johnson (MFA ’99) and Susan Foster (BFA Spec. Hons. ’96).

Nuit Blanche visitors will have the opportunity to pick favourites in the ScotiaBank People’s Choice Awards. The three projects receiving the most votes win a $5,000 prize. Voting takes place at the information centres in each zone, where maps and directions are available. With a broad spectrum, from large-scale spectacle to intimate interaction, perhaps it will be a project affiliated with York that gets the most votes.

Since Toronto’s first Nuit Blanche celebration, visiting Professor Bill Kirby‘s online contemporary Canadian Art Database, a project now housed in York’s Department of Visual Arts, has been commissioned by the city to document the events curated works. Kirby is engaging several York film and photography students to go out into the night and collect images and footage for the Web site.

To view the past three years of documentation, visit the Canadian Art Database Web site. The 2009 record will be posted shortly after the event.