Bruce Kuwabara
by Bruce Kuwabara
Fri Oct 10th 2008 at 11:18am UTC

Nuit Blanche – A Dream of Pastures

For one night in the year, Nuit Blanche seduces cities around the world with visual art and performance. The event draws millions of people out onto the streets, into public spaces, and into darker alleys and spaces that would normally never be explored even in daylight. For Toronto, Nuit Blanche generates a cultural and cosmopolitan buzz that sweeps through the city, congesting it in a way that makes it feel more like New York or Tokyo at night.

This year, one of the most successful art installations was by Brad Hindson and Mitchell F Chan: A Dream of Pastures. The installation was sandwiched behind the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Ontario College of Art and Design in a service laneway off McCaul Street.

People queued up to ride a stationary bicycle while listening to compositions by Phillip Glass on headphones. Their silhouettes were projected onto the back wall of the AGO while another machine projected images of a galloping horse, cleverly superimposed on the wall to create the flickering image of a ghost rider. As the rider pedals, the machine is activated and the image of a galloping horse is brought to life. The motion of the horse projected onto the wall mimics the motion of the rider on the bicycle: the faster the rider pedals, the faster the horse appears to be moving in unison with the rider.

The high and low readings of this work encompass historical motion studies by Muybridge and mid-way carnivals. The brilliance of the installation is laid bare to the audience who nonetheless remain captivated by the action and imagery. But the key to the installation is that the individual becomes an actor in animating an urban space.

The effect was especially pronounced as we really were the archetypal “two guys building something in their garage,” and when you’re in that mode, you come to think of the object you’re building as being in a vacuum, as this sacred platonic artifact. And then to all of a sudden turn that very private relationship with your work inside-out–to be able to rediscover it through the reactions of tens of thousands of people–was completely mind-blowing.”

- Mitchell F Chan

For more information on Nuit Blanche please visit: Photographic credit to Brad Hindson and Mitchell F Chan.

2 Responses to “Nuit Blanche – A Dream of Pastures”

  1. auriga Says:

    The Toronto event was sponsored by Scotiabank, and it was great that there were no cut backs in the face the financial crisis – which had been looming prior to September 15th. And it WAS great to see Nuit Blanche has grown exponentially in our city. Nuit Blanche, and events like it, reaffirm not only the civilizing but the socializing value of art.

    It would be interesting to see whether there were more people out on the streets than previous years and how much the world financial crisis spurred people to get out of their homes to feel part of a community, feel like they were part of something bigger and meaningful…I remember after 9/11 people just went out…to bars, restaurants, clubs…in Toronto the streets were teeming with people, and bars were overflowing.

    Ironically it is during times of crises that the communal experience is even more critical for there to be pleasure in the pubic realm, and most importantly, a sense of the enormous potential and wonder of the human imagination.

  2. saule Says:

    I know someone who was in Paris for Nuit Blanche last Saturday – he said it was stellar, the streets and public spaces were overflowing, with people drinking beer and acquiring Nuit Blanche as an excuse for a massive street party. So next year let’s drink beer in the streets!