Toronto’s full of art with or without Nuit Blanche: snbTO the day after

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was slightly dissatisfied with Nuit Blanche this year. Why? For the same reasons that so many other nay-sayers seem to list:  It’s too crowded with drunks, it’s too corporately sponsored, you have to travel really far between exhibits, and, frankly, I see more art on an average outing than I’m able to access during the busy party night.

BUT, every year I’m always incredibly moved and impressed with whatever is installed near Casa Loma. This year I got to explore the grounds of Spadina Museum: Historic House and Gardens, which is a Toronto Landmark that I had never visited before.

It’s at the top of the Baldwin Steps, which go directly up from the top of Spadina at Davenport.  We, however, did not take those steps. We biked up the insanely steep top of Walmer Road, halting and heaving before it curves up and into Austin Terrace.

Casa Loma in all its glory.

Casa Loma in all its glory.

nb'14 roundup (1)We parked our bikes at the top of the steps and were welcomed by the Spadina Museum volunteers. They were pleasant and smiling and it was a lovely start to our night.

Elemental, presented by the Art Science Collective Canada was made up of 11, multi-media exhibits “which include interactive light sculpture and live percussion in an enchantingly beautiful and vast natural setting.” Guiding us down a mulched pathway were some white twinkly lights, before we emerged into the yard and were struck with the incredible beauty of the beginning of ‘Fabric of the Universe.’

The depth of this piece still sits with me

The depth of this piece still sits with me

These were giant light projections on trees. The wind would blow and the leaves would flutter, and the image would seem both alive, and quite still. I wasn’t able to capture great photos of them, but I can still remember how I felt seeing them. I was awe struck. They ranged in shape from a mathematical interpretation of a water droplet, to a humongous insect on its hind legs, seemingly ready to lunge out at its audience. It was meant to be interactive, with the space for people to participate with the light, but we were lucky enough to get there at the beginning and see the installation before people started to do so.

After, I was struck by the muted light of Hortense Gerardo‘s piece, Shadow Proof House. She wasn’t performing yet, so when I looked into the window, I was lucky enough to see her walk towards her ‘stage’ and begin her movement.  Monologues and music, coupled with light play and dance, her performance allowed for and required a moment of calm reflection. In the short time I stood, watching and listening, I saw many pairs come up and snap a selfie before scurrying off to some of the larger, more colourful exhibits. If my partner had seemed more interested, I would have gladly stood and watched for more than a few minutes.

Monologues over a speaker, light projections and dance. A moment of peace. Beautiful

Monologues over a speaker, light projections and dance. A moment of peace. Beautiful

These were the first two exhibits I saw at Nuit Blanche, and they remained my favourite, even after travelling the city to see many more.

I went out for another bike ride the next day, because the afternoon, which had threatened thunderstorms, turned out to be gorgeous, warm and bright. On Dupont, down an alley, I noticed this geometric pattern on a doorway, and went closer to check it out:

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After this, I went back to the bottom of the Baldwin Stairs, where I saw the familiar sticker slaps of Lovebot the Robot and a snail mimicking the colours of a transformed electrical box, just in the time I spent locking up my bike:

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Then I joined many other people who were climbing the stairs one or more times (I chose twice; enough to get my heart rate going but not enough to be too sweaty!)

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The city looked just as beautiful to me in the daylight, but I tore myself away from a view of the downtown and made my way up the path towards the Spadina House:

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I entered in the same way I had the night before, going by the unlit twinkly lights and soggy exhibition sign, before emerging into the yard. Again, it was a sight to see.

All that remained from the night before was a barely-trampled line of grass, leading to the tree with the dark, round green image above. But in the light, I was able to explore the grounds, and travel in and amongst the trees that were the canvases/screens the night before:

And I was able to walk freely in the maze-like garden, that had been guarded by this same owl the night before:

nb'14 roundup (38)I was able to get a close up look at the puffs that cast ghostly shadows over this building in the dark of the night:

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And get a much better shot of the turtle that had stolen my heart on our way off the Spadina grounds:

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BUT, the best part was, that one of the buildings I had been in the night before was open!

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So I went in and was privy to the storage of some of the costumes that had been displayed in spotlights all over the grounds a mere half day earlier:

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Along with some drying flowers from the surrounding gardens:

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The whole visit felt very clandestine, but it was clear that the space was open to the public as well. I came across a young dad who was tossing a frisbee with his pup while his baby slept in a carriage, and an awkward photographing teen, whose DSLR may or may not have been the cause of his nervous slouch. I saw tourists posing with plaques and lovers admiring flowers, and the whole property felt alive.

I would never have thought to come up to the area that afternoon if I hadn’t been exploring it the night before, but I was glad to take the time to see it in all its daytime beauty, and take note of some of the upcoming activities:

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So, Nuit Blanche, as in previous years, you’ve reawakened my desire to explore further reaches of my city, to see the natural beauty, statues and public art that exist on a daily basis, and to continue to find the hidden gems in the alleyways on route:




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