10 must-see shows at Nuit Blanche 2019

Our picks for the all-night art festival include road salt sculptures, a life-size board game and work by Kent Monkman, Daniel Arsham and Lisa Jackson


NUIT BLANCHE all over the city, Saturday (October 5), sundown to sunrise. Free. nbto.com.


The 14th annual all-night art event once again includes a hub around the Scarborough Civic Centre in addition to the usual hot spots around downtown, Fort York and Garrison Common. In all, nearly 90 projects by more than 300 artists – down from 450 last year – will activate nine neighbourhoods around the curatorial theme of Continuum. In addition to city-produced exhibits, independent artists, neighbourhood associations and museums, galleries, hotels and the inaugural Toronto Biennial of Art are all hosting events. Here are our top picks.

1. Lunar Garden – Daniel Arsham

City Hall, 100 Queen West

This year’s centrepiece exhibition is New York-based Arsham’s immersive installation. Inspired by a Japanese Zen garden, it combines reimagined architecture, raked sand, sculpture and light to create “a world of fictional archaeology.” It also includes a 30-foot light orb resembling the moon (intergalactic replicas are hot this year) as well as a soundscape by Toronto singer/songwriter Charlotte Day Wilson. On display to October 14.

2. Placeholders: Listen To The Land – Aylan Couchie, Jason Baerg, Logan MacDonald, Vanessa Dion Fletcher

Fort York National Historic Site, 100 Garrison

Curated by Ryan Rice, this multimedia installation asserts the Indigenous presence at the heritage site via projections of vignettes on a blockhouse. Each one takes a different style and subject, but are reacting to colonial dominance by emphasizing natural elements, names and language.

3. …three kings weep… – Ebony G. Patterson

Scarborough Civic Centre, Rotunda, 150 Borough

The Jamaica-born mixed-media artist, who recently had a solo show at Miami’s Pérez Art Museum, is staging what Nuit Blanche is billing as the artist’s “most ambitious video installation to date.” Her monumental project will draw on Renaissance portraiture as well as poetry by Claude McKay to explore the ways the Black male body is seen.

4. Unearthed – Lisa Jackson

Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas West

The Anishinaabe filmmaker behind the virtual reality experience Biidaaban: First Light and other format-defying screen projects is showing the film component of her three-part, 6,000-square-foot immersive installation Transmissions. Shot in a single take before a live audience at imagineNATIVE two years ago, Unearthed stars artist/performer Jeneen Frei Njootli and puts a Indigenous futurist riff on themes of environmental collapse.

Nuit Blanche JonathanSchipper

City of Toronto

5. Detritus – Jonathan Schipper

Salt Dome, City of Toronto Transportation Yard, 677 Wellington West

Before road salt becomes part of the shoe-destroying Toronto winter, the mineral will evoke more expansive themes of decay in the Ellenville, New York-based artist’s sculptural installation. Using a 3D printer, he’ll create objects out of salt inside a storage dome and then dissolve them back into the pile.

6. Tile-Scape – Kevin Winn, Archer Pechawis, L.C.I. CyberARTS

Robertson Parkette, 1555 Danforth

What’s Nuit Blanche without a life-size version of something? This 50-foot ceramic board game/interactive installation will be a focal point on Danforth East. Viewers can play by placing Scrabble letters on a forest floor to create “a microcosm of shifting patterns of language, conflict and development.”

7. Water Shrine – Camille Jodoin-Eng

Albert Campbell Square Pond, 150 Borough

The local artist’s outdoor installation will use optical instruments to create a shrine-like atmosphere of light and water. Jodoin-Eng has previously used mirrors, neon and hand-sculpted symbols to create abstract works that ponder space and infinity, so we’re excited to see how she transforms a large outdoor space.

8. The Miss Chief Eagle Testickle Picture Show – Kent Monkman

Scarborough Civic Centre, Council Chamber, 150 Borough

The popular Toronto-based Cree artist’s gender-fluid alter ego stars in six films arranged into a new video installation that promises to put a playfully provocative spin on reconciliation conversations. The work includes the minute-long Miss Chief’s Praying Hands, which takes on Canadian repression in more ways than one.

9. It All Makes Sense – Stephanie Comilang

Museum of Contemporary Art, 158 Sterling

The Toronto artist recreates a pivotal moment from teenhood: watching Filipino director/producer Kidlat Tahimik’s 1977 art-house classic Perfumed Nightmare, a semi-autobiographical film about a young, America-obsessed man who rebels against global capitalism. Part of the MOCA’s Age Of You show, Comilang will transform the gallery’s entrance using video, light, scent and textiles. To October 13.

Esmond Lee

Photographer Esmond Lee celebrates Scarborough with the banner Below The City.

10. Below The City – Esmond Lee

Borough Drive & Town Centre Court

The photographer behind the @­belowthecityart Instagram account – devoted to arresting images of Scarborough streets and landscapes – is creating a 250-foot vinyl banner out of personal and crowd-sourced images that celebrate the suburb as a major source of creativity in Toronto.

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