It’s not possible to see everything in the 12 short hours that comprise this year’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, which takes place Saturday, Oct. 2, from dusk to dawn. With more than 500 artists and 130 destinations spread over three zones, downtown Toronto’s annual sunset to sunrise celebration of contemporary art offers something for everyone.
Here’s an overview of just some of the work offered at this year’s Nuit Blanche by students, faculty and alumni from York’s Faculty of Arts to help chart your way through this year’s event. Nuit Blanche, which is celebrating its fifth birthday this year, offers contemporary art in the most unexpected of places.
The Endless Pace (variation for 60 dancers), 2009
By Davide Balula (Paris, France) with choreography by Biba Bell.
Students from York University’s Departments of Dance and Theatre will be part of The Endless Pace, a performance involving 60 dancers whose movements celebrate the passage of time. The dancers (two alternating groups of 60) are aligned on the periphery of a circle, sitting and facing outwards. They become the face of a clock and over the course of 12 hours – for the entire duration of Nuit Blanche – the dancers mimic the rotation of the second, minute and hour hands. The mechanical movements are translated into human movements. The second hand passes through the dancers in, appropriately, seconds. The minute hand becomes a 60 second dance solo. This human clock marks an hour’s passing, upon its end it begins anew, tracing the path of the following hour. The endlessness alluded to in the work’s title lies in this hourly repetition and also in the fact that time cannot be circumvented, it is relentless. Through dance, each second becomes fluid and the minutes become unique moments.
The Endless Pace will mark the passage of Nuit Blanche at Commerce Court, 25 King Street West.
Erik Satie’s Vexations (1893), 2010
By Martin Arnold (Toronto, Canada) and Micah Lexier (Toronto, Canada)
York music professors Marc Couroux and Casey Sokol are part of a group of pianists performing composer Erik Satie’s Vexations. Written in 1893, Vexations was never published or publicly heard during Satie’s lifetime. The composer left 39 beats of hand scrawled, insidiously vexing music that was hard to read and hard to remember, along with the following cryptic instruction: “to repeat 840 times this motif, it is advisable to prepare oneself in the most absolute silence, by some serious immobilities.”
A number of performers (most notably John Cage) have, in the past, ventured to take him at his word and successively play the piece 840 times, taking between 15 and 27 hours to do so. Arnold and Lexier have just 12 hours so they are dividing it: two pianos playing simultaneously, 420 passes per piano and the performances will be staged in the majestic arched expanse of a cathedral of commerce. Couroux and Sokol, among other pianists, will be counting the night by playing 840 scores, each a vexation, once. After each score is played it will be transformed into a folded paper sculpture, with each of the 840 scores creating 840 objects, giving shape to the sound and echoing the team of pianists weaving the composition’s vexing notes. Satie said: “Before I compose a piece, I walk around it several times, accompanied by myself.”
Those interested in being musically vexed can listen to one or all of the 840 scores at Brookfield Place, Allen Lambert Galleria, 181 Bay Street. (Access the performance venue from Yonge Street.)
By John Oswald (Toronto, Canada) and Chiyoko Szlavnics (Berlin, Germany) with a performance by Christina Petrowska Quilico
The Canadian Music Centre invites two composers to explore intimate experiences in contemporary art. Berlin-based Chiyoko Szlavnics pursues the intimacies found in the detail of sound through her minimalist composition drawings. These works inform musical creations of surprising transparency: glassy surfaces of pure sound. York music alumnus John Oswald (BFA ’77) counteracts the rambunctious experience of large crowds by creating intimate musical experiences in the cozy spaces of Chalmers House.
Whether tucked into tiny turrets, nestled between the music library shelves, or hidden away in cozy corners of the heritage home, micro-audiences interact with Toronto musicians, to co-curate personalized mini-concerts. One of those musicians is pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico (left), a professor in York’s Department of Music. Whether it’s a folk song lullaby, the artistry of Petrowska Quilico, a guitar serenade, or electronic music, the options will ebb and flow over the course of the night. York dance Professor Holly Small will perform numerous fleeting solos throughout the evening to complement these musical interludes.
Intimate Music will be presented at the Chalmers House, 20 St. Joseph Street.
By David Frankovich, Anda Kubis and John Shipman
Curated by Sharon Switzer
DRIFT presents digital abstractions born from contemporary painting, photography and performance, by three Toronto-based artists. York film and video alumnus David Frankovich (BFA Spec. Hons. ’07) uses video compression artifacts to open up new possibilities of representation in a Plus De Deux, an homage to the late Canadian filmmaker Norman McLaren’s Pas de deux. York alumna Anda Kubis (MFA ’92) offers animated paintings and explores the passing of time and the multiple realities we navigate while fulfilling daily tasks. Kubis is chair of drawing and painting at OCAD University. John Shipman transforms Toronto’s streets into whirling colours by recording continuous motion with a still camera on night walks. Shipman’s audio and video projects have been shown in Toronto, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, and the United States. He is currently working with an art and architecture collaborative, KS3, and on a video project with a Berlin-based composer.
These digital abstractions will drift across subway platforms on the Onestop Network of 270 screens in over 50 stations of the TTC, without interruption from the usual news and advertisements for 12 hours, beginning at 7pm. All the work will also be available online.
VIBES! Feel it!
Deaf Culture Centre with a performance by Gwen Dobie
Set in its award winning gallery, the Deaf Culture Centre debuts exhilarating vibe performances in collaboration with Ryerson University, commissioned for the Emoti-Chair – a unique contemporary visual and tactile feast. Visitors feel electronic vibrations along their backs taking turns sitting in Emoti-Chairs or along their arms resting in vibe-rests while everyone watches deaf and hearing performers collaborate to create vibe music. Deaf movement artist and York theatre Professor Gwen Dobie (right), who is also the artistic director of Out of the Box Productions, will perform with hearing artist Paul Swoger-Ruston, a spectral music theorist and avant-garde composer guitarist, and Stephane Vera, a dance music hearing composer. Accompanying Dobie will be fellow deaf performers Elizabeth Morris and Max Trapper.
Between performances and into the morning, participants create and feel their own vibe music. Visitors can also explore the See It! Feel It! Sign It! exhibit, try captioning movies, learn signs from an animated rabbit and discover how this first animated signing dictionary was created. Participants can also interact with signing puppets to discover how long distance video relay service works.
The performances feature vibe worms, the latest creation by York alumnus Frank Russo (BA Spec. Hons. ’92). The worms are suspended throughout the venue. The vibe performances will take place in the Distillery District’s Deaf Culture Centre. Performance times are 7:30pm, 9pm, 11pm and 1am. The Distillery District is located at 55 Mill Street.
For more information on these presentations and other events, visit the Scotiabank Nuit Blanche website.