Arts & Entertainment
3 min

An artistic buffet

Queer picks for seventh annual Nuit Blanche all-nighter

Jan Derbyshire's Queen Street Cartography features downloadable stories you can listen to as you wander from exhibit to exhibit. Credit: Kathy Toth
We’re all old hands at Nuit Blanche by now.
As the city gears up for its seventh annual all-night art bender, everyone knows the drill: skip the lines (which are never worth it), pack a Redbull, do your best to dodge the drunken brawls on Queen West, accept that the group of friends you start the evening with will not be the group you end the evening with, and don’t forget to complain about how much better it was in 2006.
With hundreds of artists exhibiting work — not to mention an expected one million attendees potentially standing between you and that really cool-sounding installation — it can be difficult to plan your evening. But if you keep your wits about you, you might catch some exciting new work from some of the city’s most interesting queer artists.
For Jan Derbyshire, the fact that everyone can come to Nuit Blanche is a big part of the appeal. “The inclusiveness value goes way up,” she explains. “It’s still so hard for diverse communities to access mainstream arts venues and funding, so this is the great leveller.”
Accessibility is particularly relevant to Derbyshire’s piece Queen Street (Car)tography, a part of the Abilities Arts Festival. “I’m what you might call the director/devisor for a quartet of site-specific audio stories,” she says. “I worked with a bunch of fabulous writers and composers to produce four new pieces of work by artists who sometimes identify as artists with a disability.”
Anchored by a photography show at 49 McCaul St, Queen Street (Car)tography also features a series of downloadable stories meant to be listened to as you walk through specific parts of the Queen West strip.
Derbyshire isn’t the only queer artist whose work is being featured at Nuit Blanche. Over at the Gladstone Hotel, multidisciplinary Colombian-Canadian artist Gustavo Cerquera Benjumea will be participating in the venue’s Fly By Night art series for the second year in a row.
“It’s really intense,” Cerquera Benjumea says of the Fly By Night experience, “and by the end you’re exhausted and dealing with people that are a bit too drunk to be in public, but that’s part of the fun. It’s a little bit masochistic, but here I am again. I must enjoy it.” Last year, he filled a hotel room with monstrous papier-mâché fish that hung from the ceiling.

As for this year, he’s remaining somewhat tightlipped. “The project is called Archaean,” he admits, “and it’s a multimedia installation. It’s a dreamy piece about perception, illusion and glaciers. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s about finding sublime moments in the ordinary.”

If you make it over to the Gladstone, you may also want to check out Believe in Yourself, the debut piece by Fitness Phone (a collective featuring artists Neil LaPierre and David Tallis), which pulls apart the tropes of a self-help seminar.
“You will see an infomercial gone right and an infomercial gone wrong,” says LaPierre, who’s currently holding a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and recently completed a project that involved watching the movie Sister Act every day for a month. Believe in Yourself is inspired by modern-day gurus like Tony Little and Oprah’s go-to business-savvy lesbian Suze Orman. “Suze Orman is a role model to me,” LaPierre says. “All strong people in the public eye are queer icons. I look up to people who are independent.”
Will you see some bad art at Nuit Blanche? Probably. “It can be a bit hit or miss,” Cerquera Benjumea admits, “but that’s the nature of the beast.”
Having a good Nuit Blanche is in itself a subtle art, and the best things you can take with you when you head into the streets are patience, flexibility and an open mind. “You can just wander around and see what you see,” Derbyshire says. “It’s a great night! Like a buffet instead of a prix fixe.”
Nuit Blanche
Sat, Sept 29, 7:03pm to sunrise
Abilities Arts Festival
Runs till Thurs, Oct 11