While New York and Los Angeles may be the American epicenters of art, film, and design, don’t sleep on our neighbors to the north and their bustling arts scene in Toronto. This weekend, contemporary artists from around the world flocked to the city, known as possibly the most diverse city in the world, to partake in Nuit Blanche—an all-night art exposition and event where artists coat the streets with murals, installations and everything in between.
From sunrise to sunset on Saturday, artists took to the streets to create works based rooted in heritage, political views, beauty, and design. The one creations from the one-night-only event are only available to be seen for a short period until they’re disassembled, bringing Torontonians out into the streets to see the work being constructed and unveiled.
Since 2006, the arts district of the city has been consumed by incredible works from some of the biggest names in the art world, and this year was no different. We spoke with the five favorites on their inspiration behind each work and why Nuit Blanche has become such an important staple for the international art community.
Maximo Gonzalez’s work has always spoken out against the injustices in the world. His work this weekend was no different in style or aim. A bubbly construction of orbs dribbling like stalactites of color, with a single tower in the center of the hall pointing up. All were composed of globes, with the title Walk Among Worlds. According to Gonzalez, “I always look for a balance: something that has political criticism but, at the same time, can be playful, that people can love before they stop to think about the layers underneath.”
Nuit Blanche also works to change the careers and lives of its resident artists, even if just for a night. Here, Gonzalez’s work offered him a unique opportunity to speak up for a new issue. “For this edition of Toronto Nuit Blanche, I find very attractive the possibility of making the installation outside downtown, in Scarborough, and include, as a parallel event, a performance to be carried out by many volunteers who, according to a choreography that we’ll all develop together, they will be carrying dry trees as standard-bearers do when they carry flags in different events, representing their homeland countries,” he says. “This connection between Walk among Worlds multi-sized breathing globes-containing the contemporary political division of the planet- next to an army of volunteers carrying dry trees as if they were carrying flags, can produce a powerful reading in ecological, political, social, and artistic dimensions.”
Brendan Fernandes is also looking to make a statement. His work, speaking out for LGBTQ+ rights and cultural advancement, made a big splash this year. Unlike the other projects, his auditory creation On Flashing Lights balanced sound and light in a piece that could be experienced for mere moments.
“This work is inspired by my continual quest to define a ‘safe space’ for Queers and to question the progress and value of our civil rights," explains Fernandes. "My work is an ongoing project that asks provocative questions through the forms of dance, performance and ‘movements’ in all sense of the word. All leading to this idea of social solidarity and exploring what forms that can take.”
Throughout the process though, the piece isn’t merely a declaration, but a question posited to the world, using the Toronto streets as a speaker. The intended impact of this project is to make a political statement. To get people to think about each other in a way where dance and gathering are reconsidered next to the question: what is a safe space? And what does it mean to create a safe space for one another? Who is providing that for marginalized groups in our community?
Most notable of the event was the acclaimed artist eL Seed. His work, Mirrors of Babel, towered into the sky this weekend, and was inspired by two poems from Emily Pauline Johnson called “Prairie Greyhounds” the eastbound and westbound editions. The poems speak about the toil and hard work of in a land of promise, with the hope of yielding success from it.
“I am a son of immigrants, and part of a minority,” he says. “As an artist, I have a social responsibility to federate and not separate. My goal is to bring people, culture, and generations together. Toronto is known to be the most diverse city in the world, so it is important to show the diversity of it but also to show the roots of it, the people who were there first. It is important for me that everyone recognizes the importance and the value of each member of a society.”
Nuit Blanche has affected each of the artists participating, though eL Seed’s views focus on the city of Toronto and it’s cultural rising. “When you recognize the contributions of everyone in building a society, you give them pride and value. The Mirrors of Babel is here to reflect the contributions of every single community in the greatness of Toronto society.”