Illustration courtesy of Sabine Osmann-Deymann

On September 30th, downtown Toronto streets were transformed into an outdoor art gallery celebrating the diversity of art culture in what is known as Nuit Blanche.  The free annual event takes places from sunset to sunrise, with cordoned off streets showcasing contemporary art through videos, sculptures, photography, paintings and performances. For the first time since Nuit Blanche began in 2006, and in celebration of Canada’s 150 years of confederation, this year’s all night art exhibit held a theme: “Many Possible Futures”.  With the motto, “Art Speaks Volumes,” the artwork centered around contemporary social, political and environmental issues. Works with titles such as, “How we RISE from our struggles”, “the future is a distorted landscape”, “Colour Revolutions” and “The Waste Land” conveyed this theme brilliantly.

In a feminist exhibit, the faces of several women from different cultural backgrounds – each projected onto their own screen – collectively performed spoken word poetry. A large crowd huddled together to witness what the intriguing technological display had to offer. Some even remained to watch the projection replay the performance a second time. At Nathan Phillips Square, a large section entitled, “Monument To The Century of Revolutions,” portrayed historical appreciation and awareness of the Russian Revolution and the Arab Spring. Themes of protest and awareness for political and social problems were acknowledged alongside the notion of a will to change. Elsewhere on stage, a small singing group performed songs and skits relating to climate change, accompanied by a video montage of natural disasters captured the audience.

Linking these various art forms through a common purpose and theme, and exhibiting a collection of these works in a grand public showcase, can seem risky. However, Nuit Blanche’s large turnout confirms that success can come from mixing art with contemporary social topics that may be uncomfortable for some to explore on their own. With the explicit politically charged theme of Nuit Blanche this year, we can only assume that next year’s event will follow with a similar and equally prominent theme of justice.

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