Arts & entertainment
3 min

Nuit Blanche art installations that queer audiences will enjoy

There’s room for interpretation in these projects, which include washroom graffiti and an Honest Ed’s tribute

Les Bouquets by French artist JR was on display at Nuit Blanche 2015 in Toronto. Courtesy City of Toronto

For the first time in a decade, Toronto’s annual all-night art extravaganza will be known simply as Nuit Blanche.

Days after the 2015 edition, lead sponsor Scotiabank announced it was axing its support for the festival, removing its name from the moniker. A spokesman for Scotiabank (which also supports the Contact photography festival and the Giller Prize, among others) says the event “no longer aligns with [their] sponsorship strategy.”

While Scotiabank’s departure may have an impact, the number of art installations at Nuit Blanche has shrunk in the past few years. In 2012, there were over 150 art installations, which downsized to 110 by 2015. This year has a mere 91 on the slate.

Regardless, Nuit Blanche, which takes place on Oct 1, 2016, still has a gargantuan number of options for art lovers and party animals alike, despite the reduced variety. Daily Xtra has sifted the program for projects likely to have a special resonance with queer audiences.

Beyond

Nuit Blanche is ostensibly a chance for Torontonians to check out top-notch art. But obviously, a substantial number will use an all-night cultural event as an excuse to get blitzed. Laid out over the sprawling grounds of the Spadina Museum, group 4d2’s Beyond serves as the festival’s informal chill out room. Along with 10 interactive installations, it features bonfires, hot drinks and crepes. A port of tranquillity in the sea of madness, it’s a perfect place to escape the insanity or just come down from your mushroom trip.

Take a break from the busy night and relax at Beyond, by group 4d2.
Courtesy Radha Chaddah

Conversational Partner

From texting to Tinder and Skype to Scruff, there are no shortage of ways to connect. But despite the myriad of platforms for exchange, it’s worth pausing to ask whether we’re really communicating. Allie Brenner and Laura Snider’s participatory installation does just that. Their tin can phone sculptures invite viewers to chat like kids did in the olden times, while they ponder how today’s technologies may be pushing us further apart. And who knows? You may just make a connection with that cutie on the other end of the string.

Conversational Partner makes you wonder if technology has really brought us closer or further apart, as you try to communicate through a tin can.
Courtesy Allie Brenner and Laura Snider

Girl Talk

Washroom graffiti often reveals marked gender differences. Men tend to etch words like “Fuck” or “Shit,” along with drawings of dicks. By contrast, women will sometimes write of complex relationships woes, hoping for advice from fellow stall users. Zahra Saleki’s installation brings these anonymous scribblings into the light as they are copied and installed in an illuminated greenhouse. Composed of images from more than 500 women’s washrooms in Toronto, New York and Montreal, Girl Talk reveals that there’s more separating these spaces than just urinals and a greater willingness to share toilet paper.

Girl talk takes you into the world of washroom graffiti.
Courtesy Zahra Saleki

Leaving Still

Since AMA’s exploded in 2009, celebrities from Madonna to Obama have been lining up online to answer personal questions from total strangers. Functioning like a face-to-face version of the format, Michelle Polak’s installation invites viewers to ask her intimate questions while she makes them a sandwich. Her life is open season, though there’s no guarantee her ingredient list will match. Come prepared with a smorgasbord of personal queries. But don’t be disappointed if there’s no veal scaloppini on the menu.

Michelle Polak’s installation is an artistic version of Reddit’s AMA.
Courtesy Lyon Smith

The Legacy of Honest Ed’s

Toronto went into a collective state of pre-emptive mourning in 2014, when quirky retailer Honest Ed’s announced it would be closing Dec 31, 2016. A home for high quality kitchenware and bargain basement fashion, it’s also long been a gay cruising ground, with guys flirting over bins of 99-cent underwear. Matthew Monteith’s large-scale photo and the Plywood Collective’s mural — painted over the course of the evening — pay tribute to the this Hogtown institution. Drop in for the art, leave with a $5 frying pan and maybe score the number of a handsome stranger in the process.

This installation by Matthew Monteith and The Plywood Collective pays tribute to Honest Ed’s, which is closing December 31, 2016.
Courtesy Matthew Monteith​

New Project, 2016

Rebecca Belmore has made a career of pushing boundaries and asking tough questions. Raised in northern Ontario, the Anishinaabe art powerhouse has lived and worked across the country and had major exhibitions around the world. Despite her frequent movement, the GGA winner’s work remains rooted in her politics and childhood experiences of dislocation and imposed assimilation. Not much is known about her Nuit Blanche offering, as evidenced by its current title. But whatever she’s going to get up to, you won’t want to miss her durational performance at the AGO’s Walker Court.

Not much is known yet about Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore’s exhibit for Nuit Blanche, but her previous works are routed in the her childhood experiences of dislocation and imposed assimilation.
Martin Lipman/Canada Council for the Arts