On Saturday, October 5, thousands of art lovers, merrymakers and idle observers will congregate downtown for the eighth annual Nuit Blanche, Toronto’s nightlong art festival. This year’s fest, which runs from 6:51 p.m. until dawn, brings an unusually weird and wonderful set of exhibits, including a bicycle-powered salmon smoker, an olfactory-based installation and an enormous float made up of 6,300 individual origami helmets. Here, our top 15 picks of the night (click here to see our picks on a map).
1. Campfire, by David Hoffos
Location: Cloud Gardens, 19 Richmond St. W.
David Hoffos, a master illusionist, combines sculpture, video and other technologies to create eerie Hitchcockian dioramas. At this year’s fest, he’ll use his toolbox of techniques to create the illusion of a roaring urban campfire, which could prove comforting on a chilly night—even if it doesn’t throw any actual heat.
2. Toaster Work Wagon, by Kim Adams
Location: Osgoode Rotunda Laneway, 361 University Ave. (Enter from south of 361 University Ave. or Nathan Phillips Square)
Volunteers are encouraged to test-ride this exhibit, which is made up of tandem bicycles engineered by sculptor Kim Adams. The only catch: the handlebars face in opposite directions, meaning that riders have to cooperate in order to get the bikes to move. A crafty way, perhaps, to test a fledgling relationship.
3. Smoke House, by The Everything Co.
Location: Richmond-Adelaide Centre, 111 Richmond St. W.
Torontonians will wait hours to try out a new taco joint, but will they queue for the chance to operate a bicycle-powered cedar smokehouse? The Vancouver artist co-op is looking for volunteers to keep a bike-powered salmon smoker going all night long.
4. Tanks, by Cal Lane
Location: David Pecaut Square, 221 King St. W.
Lane got her welder’s certificate so that she wouldn’t end up a starving artist. She needn’t have worried: her intricate steel sculptures—created out of oil tanks, cars and even an abandoned Soviet submarine—have gained the Halifax-born artist an international following.
5. L’air du temps, by Faith La Rocque
Location: 2 Queen St. E. (enter from Yonge St.)
Nuit Blanche is a sensory overload, but this might be the first time in the festival’s history that an artist has purposely teased smell. Inspired by one of Marcel Duchamp’s famous Readymade sculptures, Faith La Rocque’s scent installation conjures 1919 Paris in all of its imagined olfactory glory.
6. This, I Build For You, by David R. Harper
Location: Queens Park Cr. E. & Grosvenor St.
Harper made a name for himself by combining taxidermy with embroidery. Now he’s taking his process public: all night long, the artist’s intricate hand-stitching will be live-projected onto a 20-foot-tall stone memorial. By the end of the night, the monument will be emblazoned with virtual graffiti.
7. Forever Bicycles, by Ai WeiWei
Location: Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W.
Ai Weiwei’s massive sculpture comprises 3,144 interlocking bicycles arranged in a mesmerizing three-dimensional pattern. If you’re still wondering what all the Weiwei fuss is about, a documentary about the dissident artist will also be screening in city hall council chambers every two hours starting at 7 p.m.
8. Paper Orbs, by Marcin Kedzior and Christine Kim
Location: University Ave. & Armoury St.
This mammoth origami float will be gradually dismantled throughout the night as its 6,300 orb-shaped helmets are given away to gawking passersby. Kim is a genius at folding paper, so we expect the orbs to become the festival’s most coveted headgear.
9. Garden Tower in Toronto, by Tadashi Kawamata
Location: Metropolitan United Church, 56 Queen St. E.
The Japanese artist finds inspiration in chairs, tables and other furniture, which he stacks and assembles into towering architectural structures that demand exploring.
10. My Virtual Dream, by Baycrest Health Sciences
Location: Outside the Leslie L. Dan Faculty of Pharmacy building, 144 College St.
In what sounds like the premise to a Charlie Kaufman film, Baycrest Health Sciences has built a 60-foot dome that can read your mind. Wireless headsets supposedly transform brainwaves into projected animations, while the Virtual Dream band musically interprets your thoughts.
11. Your Temper, My Weather, by Diane Borsato
Location: Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St. W.
Beekeeping may not seem relaxing, but there’s something wonderfully Zen about Diane Borsato’s performance piece. The AGO artist-in-residence has invited 100 suited-up beekeepers to the gallery’s Walker Court for a massive meditation session. From 7 p.m. to midnight, watch the hive mind focus its collective energy on the health of bee population and the environment.
12. Everyday Marvels, by Lorna Crozier and Sharon Litzenberger
Location: Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Park
Dance artist Sharon Litzenberger recruited 50 dancers and eight choreographers for a 12-hour marathon performance inspired by poet Lorna Crozier’s Book of Marvels, a series of experimental musings on everyday objects. Watch top choreographers like Suzie Burpee physically interpret prosaic items such as dictionaries, doorknobs and the evening news.
13. The n Games, by Germaine Koh
Location: MOCCA courtyard, 952 Queen St. W.
The arty kids will finally get their playground revenge, thanks to Sobey Award nominee Germaine Koh’s invented-sports league. There are no try-outs required to participate in entirely made-up games like Scrumble, Petri and Whoseball.
14. Voices of Fire, by Michael Jursic
Location: Artscape Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie St.
Schoolteacher Michael Jursic’s interactive kinetic sculpture combines a karaoke machine with a physics apparatus called a Rubens’ Tube, which uses flames to measure sound waves. The result: flames that dance and leap as volunteers belt out their favourite songs.
15. LandslideLandslideLocation: Markham Museum
Although not technically a Nuit Blanche event, agoraphobes might want to escape downtown crowds in favour of this fantastic contemporary art exhibition, which features 30 installations scattered around the 25-acre open-air museum. Free shuttle buses leave the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art on Queen West at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., returning at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.—leaving plenty of time for subsequent Nuit Blanche debauchery.