[-empyre-] NightSense

Jennifer Fisher jefish at yorku.ca
Wed Apr 4 08:24:22 EST 2012

Hi Renate,

To begin responding to your questions, Nuit Blanche, which began as an all-night art event in Paris, happens annually in cities around the world. In Toronto, it is sustained by a board of directors from the art community, Toronto City Hall Special Events, the Toronto Arts Council, public and private galleries, and numerous other organizations both public and corporate (Scotiabank is a named sponsor). 

Jim and I were approached by Nuit Blanche organizers to propose a curated project, and happily our proposal for NightSense was accepted. This involved commissioning 10 projects from artists of our choice, and selecting 5 "open call" projects from a roster of submitted proposals. 

We were assigned "Zone B" -- Toronto's Financial District. This immediately created an implicit link between our initial proposal focussed on the "senses at night" and "finance capital." Because we work in a context-sensitive manner, we began by researching the history of the neighbourhood, and doing site visits to identify salient venues, first with our production team and then pairing places with prospective artists. Of course, in the fall of 2009 the corporate sector was reeling from the financial crisis, which gave special resonance to the way we configured the projects. In the dark, the haptic senses of touch, vertiginous vestibular destabilization, and proprioception come into play, along with sound, smell and -- at a critical moment when the New York Times reported that financiers were seeking help from astrologers and psychics -- the 6th sense or paranormal sensorium.

Over the two years prior to the "nuit", we worked with a seasoned team at Toronto City Hall Special Events overseen by Umbereen Unayet and Dan Surman, who did an amazing job of securing the sites we were interested in which included closing Bay Street ( Canada's equivalent to Wall Street) where Dempsey & Millan installed Avalanche, a carnival ride staffed by real coked-up carneys dressed in business suits, Ryan Stec's inaugural project as the first artist to incorporate the CN Tower (iconic of Toronto), Heather Nicol's memoryscape at Union Station (a major train hub of surprised commuters that night), IAINBAXTER&'s game of Monopoly with real money at the Toronto Stock Exchange (this venue was very tough to get and was ultimately secured with a letter penned by the Mayor of Toronto, David Miller to the President of the stock exchange), as well as bank atriums, plazas, arcades, alleys, malls and walls. 

Rather than analyze our own projects, we wanted to provide video links for a selection of projects. In our curatorial practice, we are particularly interested in how the affects of exhibition extend cultural theory in ways distinct from textual analysis. Perhaps these may incite some discussion. 

Ryan Stec
Bright Lights Big City (CN Tower LED system synched with 12 hour CIUT FM simultaneous audio broadcast/Jokers of the Scene)

Dan Mihaltianu
Vodka Pool (pool of vodka in lobby of the Canadian Bank of Imperial Commerce)

Rebecca Belmore
Gone Indian (artist's pow wow to re-territorialize Royal Bank plaza)

Center for Tactical Magic
Witches Cradles (form of torture recuperated by witches to incite prophetic visions)

Shawna Dempsey & Lorri Millan
Wild Ride (Avalanche carnival ride placed on Bay Street between the Bank of Montreal and Scotia Bank)

What initially intrigued us about this event in Toronto was the opportunity to curate an exhibition for an over-night event that mobilizes and engages in one night an audience of a million people. We were keen to explore what happens when art spectatorship moves outside the gallery on this scale. It became clear that a mass audience can engage with conceptually rigorous art works. And the role of mass media, such as television, became significant as they rushed to cover what was happening. Rather than the reductive and often trivializing "containment" of artworks customarily found in art coverage,  the reportage assumed the perspective of durational participant broadcasting from "within" immersive art events. 

So while we hope for some responses to the work, what we cannot show unfortunately, is our own curatorial itinerary through the zone.  We circulated through the project from sunset until sunrise, watching the mood shift with different waves of engagement. 

All the best,
Jennifer and Jim

Jennifer Fisher, PhD
Associate Professor, Contemporary Art and Curatorial Studies
Department of Visual Arts CFA 252
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON  M3J 1P3
jefish at yorku.ca

Documentation on CCCA archive

Nuit Blanche 2012 website:

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