On Saturday, October 4, crowds will pour into central Toronto for the city's annual after hours—6:53 p.m. to sunrise—exhibition of contemporary art, Nuit Blanche. As wading through pedestrian gridlock has become part and parcel of this 'sleepless night', this year's event has been partly relocated to decongest the spectator throngs a bit. This 9th annual dusk-to-dawn event will feature four curated exhibitions. One is still right in the core at City Hall/Nathan Phillips Square, while three will spread out west of downtown in three distinct neighbourhoods; Chinatown/Spadina, Roundhouse Park/Bremmer Blvd, and Fort York. Each of the exhibitions is centred strongly around a unique theme. Together the four different shows should unify the Nuit Blanche experience while providing organized and distinguishable spaces of expression. 

Nuit Blanche Logo, courtesy of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

The theme for the downtown heart of the event at City Hall will focus on performance art and all of its trappings. The event examines the anxiety surrounding the act of performing, with its potential for failure, surprise and triumph as well as that surrounding the insertion of the private into the public sphere. This exhibition, aptly named Performance Anxiety, will be imagined as a symphony of sorts with different performances taking place throughout the night all in the hopes of mining 'the range of human capabilities and emotions'. One of the performances, HALFLIFE, created by Shasti O'Leary-Soudant, focuses on the presence of fear in society surrounding apocalyptic events. In the work, the artist disperses one hundred carriers throughout the city and will test her audience for the HALFLIFE 'virus' with invisible UV reactive ink markers. 

HALFLIFE, image courtesy of Jethro Soudant

To the west, in Chinatown, the focus is on the space between the Earth and the sky and its creative potential in The Possibility of Everything exhibition. The show's raison d'etre is to make onlookers rethink their assumptions about how we interact and perceive ourselves and the world around us. The show is being curated by Dominique Fontaine, contemporary art curator and founder of APOSteRIORi, a non-for-profit curatorial platform. 'The Possibility of Everything' will include the work Global Rainbow, a laser projection featuring horizontal beams of light shone from Chinatown to the CN tower, an eponymous imitation that will be visible from all around the city. Another installation of interest is Screaming Booth, which is exactly that; a soundproof box which allows users to enter and release their frustrations and anxieties privately at any decibel level they desire. 

Global Rainbow by Yvette Mattern, courtesy of Nuit Blanche 2014

Screaming Booth, courtesy of Chélanie Beaudin-Quintin

Roundhouse Park will be transformed into a temporary home for the Night Circus. The name was taken from the title of Erin Morgenstern's 2011 fantasy novel which focuses on a wondering magical circus in Victorian England which, like Nuit Blanche, is only operational from sundown to sunrise. The exhibit will engage users in an epic magical contest of wit and illusion. Holoscenes, one of the works, will feature a large aquarium-like structure periodically filled and drained with water which will encase a single performer enacting mundane activities like repairing a fishing net or cooking ramen. Further west along Bremner Boulevard, the artists responsible for Toronto's largest collection of public art will be on hand at Concord CityPlace to talk about their work. More on that as the event gets closer.

HOLOSCENES by Early Morning Opera, image courtesy of Nuit Blanche 2014

Before Day Break, the Fort York exhibition, uses its historic location to its advantage by examining the multi-faceted nature of the human experience through a look at contemporary history and the Canadian quest for plurality and inclusion. The exhibition brings together artists from a variety of regions to examine and represent the different angles of human experience through art that aims to transform the ordinary into an 'extraordinary artistic memory'. Between Doors is a unique installation that focuses on the choices we make and how they define and unite us. Participants will be faced with a series of free standing doorways, behind each will be a collection of more doorways and more choices to be made. As people move through the installation a large screen will track and visualize the data from the selections made throughout the night.  

Between Doors installation, image courtesy of Labspace Studio

Those with stronger artistic cravings have the option of whetting their appetites before the main festivities with the Nuit Talk series which offers behind-the-scenes insight and discussion about the festival. There will be five talks in the days leading up the festival, September 30 through October 2, which will allow participants to engage with exhibition curators and artists. On October 2, the AGO will host a special edition of First Thursdays, the gallery's after hours art show and party, which will allows attendees to see previews of the work and mingle with their creators. This talk, unlike the others, requires tickets to be purchased online. Other talks focus on themes like the Costs and Benefits of of Art Festivals in Partnership with Canadian Art and discussions with the curators about their creative visions and processes, both of which will be taking place on October 1. There will also be a discussion with artists Máximo González and Ivan Buenader who are presenting at this year's festival, on their artistic practices focusing on issues of migration and exchange. 

Nuit Blanche has grown and changed since its 2006 inception. This year's event offers a slight shift from its predecessors. As we approach this year's one-night all-night art extravaganza, we will continue to cover interesting events and news and let you know how this year's installation measures up.