Ocean, Philip Beesley. Photo: Cindy Cui

Sleepless night? Quite literally.

Nuit Blanche, Toronto’s world-famous contemporary arts night, attracts one million attendees each year. Some go for the distinctive art projects. Others go just to take advantage of Toronto’s nightlife. We went for both.


Early Bird versus Night Owl:


Nuit Blanche runs right through the night, and if you’re an avid arts lover, avoid the second day like it’s the plague.  While some go for the late-night parties, bars, and alcohol, you’re there for the real attraction: the exhibitions.

I attended from 7pm to 10:30 pm and was able to find some projects with minimal people around, excellent for sitting and pondering whatever deep existential questions the art evoked. Also, nobody gets drunk at 7pm (unless they’re really crazy); take my advice and save some of your innocence. So quick! Scamper, crawl, elbow your way down to the projects as soon as the clock strikes 7. Don’t worry, I promise we won’t judge.


Going out late was very interesting and I stress that depending on someone’s personal preference, the term ‘interesting’ may mean something else entirely. Between waiting in long lines, and navigating through the constant hustle and bustle of young adults in varying stages of being stoned and intoxicated, getting a nice and undisturbed look at the artwork was near impossible.

However, I will say that the incessant clamour of the city and its people during Nuit Blanche, oddly enough, was an important component of all of the art projects. Without the almost palpable anticipation, and collective oohs and aahs from the crowd, the exhibitions wouldn’t have held the same lustre and appeal. Nuit Blanche deals with some pretty radical stuff, and even though I was often very confused, there was a contagious sense of wonder and curiosity that exuded from everyone around me that I couldn’t help but catch.


Having Company versus Riding Solo:


Toronto, late night, with people smoking weed… It probably isn’t the safest way to spend your Saturday. But if you’re bold, determined, and know what’s out there to get you, try experiencing Nuit Blanche alone.

After quite a few prolonged sessions of my parents informing me about the safety regulations and precautions I should take, I finally made it out alone. It was definitely nice being able to plan out my night without having to take any other factors into account. Having that freedom (and being able to jaywalk across road closures) certainly gave me that sense of jubilation that most teenagers crave.

The next day, all the road closures opened up. That feeling died.


Because my parents would have had an aneurysm if I ventured the streets alone between the hours of 10pm and 2am, I ended up dragging along my reluctant friends and assuring them that it would be worth their while. And if I’m going to be very honest, most of the night was spent catching up with them and generally just hanging out.

I know, I know… some of you guys are probably all like, “How can you even write a reflection if all you did was hang out with friends?” But in my defense, socializing and having fun is a big part of what this event is all about. I mean, Nuit Blanche is great and all with it’s ode to contemporary art, but the shows also act as a permissible excuse for people to socialize and add vivacity to downtown Toronto.


Getting Around:

C: Please do yourself a favour…

A: And just walk.


Dress code

C: There’s no formal dress code to Nuit Blanche, but every once in awhile, you’ll see something unique. I personally wore a raincoat and jeans, and fit right in. However, I was pleasantly surprised when a guy wearing a R2-D2 onesie passed me on the sidewalk.

A: Although dressing to showcase one’s creativity or fashion-forward sense of style is encouraged, I did not see a single person denied access to an exhibit  because what they were wearing wasn’t avant-garde enough. And anyways, who knows? Maybe the sweatpants and sweater outfit that I was rocking held some deep artistic meaning.


Food? FOOD!!!


On normal days, I can inhale two pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for my snack. Not at Nuit Blanche. If you’re a hard-core arts fanatic, you’re there for the projects, and that’s it. Food? That’s for the weak.


Okay, so apparently I am one of the weak. But what can I say? I love food. And since Nuit Blanche does not offer any sort of refreshments, my friends and I were starving towards the end of our outing and decided to cut the night short at 1 am to head to the nearest place that still offered food. It ended up being the 24 hour 7-Eleven on Yonge St, and if you ask me whether the semi-stale pizza we got there was worth it, I will wholeheartedly say yes.


What does the largest contemporary arts event in Toronto have to offer?


We congratulate you. Take this time to give yourself a round of applause, pat yourself on the back, sob tears of joy into your pillow. You’ve made it through all the filler in front of this section to the part that really matters: THE ART.

I visited a good ten projects or so and appreciated how the projects tied art with other themes. One project (Utopia’s Ghosts) showcased all the flags of failed leftist Latin American revolutions. Scenes of Failure displayed more than one thousand hand painted watercolour pictures, which when put together, created a film where the familiar in our lives morphs into unexpected, dark situations. If you were looking for something a bit out of the ordinary (as if Nuit Blanche itself wasn’t bizarre enough), various owners of ‘Mom and Pop’ shops were photographed in the project The Guardians. However, if you’re a quiet, serene individual who loves debunking deeper meanings, perhaps you would have found my favourite artwork appealing: Waiting. The film featured a woman sitting at a dining table, waiting for someone who never arrives. A haunting piano melody was played live. The project as a whole made the viewer quite uncomfortable; you waited with the woman, never knowing when her story would end. I, however, lived for that uneasy vibe.


The Death of the Sun art project from the Oblivion exhibition, held at Nathan Phillips Square, left the greatest impression on me. It was composed of a large spherical sculpture that served as the projection canvas for a film of the sun’s life cycle. The result was a large ball that seemed to glow with colour. At first glance, my friends and I were wholly confused as to why everyone was staring at something that quite honestly resembled a ginormous cheese puff ball, but as the sun began to morph and everyone began to applaud,  we sat down and enjoyed the show. I think that what was most striking about this particular project was its ingenious placement in the middle of Nathan Phillips Square. People would all sit down or stand to watch the spectacle, with their faces illuminated by the warm colours of the projected sun. It was easy to see how the congregation of bodies circling the sculpture could have been an allusion to planets and satellites orbiting a real sun. I can’t say that the sculpture was big and in-your-face enough to create a feeling of “highly evocative meditation on human mortality” (as intended by the curators, Janine Marchessault and Michael Prokopow),  but the sculpture itself was certainly clever and aesthetic.


All in all…

Nuit Blanche love it or hate it, we’ll say it was worth it.