Reviewing the map to plan for this year's Nuit Blanche, it seemed to me that the events were much more concentrated than in the previous years. Many of the exhibits were positioned in a direct route following the path of the U-shaped Yonge-University subway line. This made for a much easier journey than in the past, when our route involved zig-zagging between streets and doubling back multiple times. There also seemed to be fewer exhibits in the areas away from the downtown core, such as the Distillery District, Queen West, Wychwood Barns, 401 Richmond, making it less worth while to travel the distance to get there.
There were also many more large installations that could be seen from a distance, thus reducing the number of times where endless lineups scared us off from trying to view an exhibit. My favourite of these was titled "Monster Child" and consisted of a huge spider-like balloon float with bright yellow legs that swayed in the wind. Each leg is attached to a long ribbon that spectators were encouraged to pull, in order to make the monster bob up and down. Attached to the back of the monster was another large float that might have been a pink bunny. I guess this represented the titular "child". A bit further down was a "wheel of fortune" which apparently was supposed to be the real focus of the attraction. You were supposed to spin the wheel to pick a question from choices such as "Are We Happy", "Should I Believe", "Can I Trust You", "Can I Help" and then apparently, the "oracle child" will provide you an answer through a headset that you wear. Unfortunately the audio was broken when we passed by, so the spinning the wheel component was temporarily suspended. That part sounded hokey anyways, but the visual spectacle of the inflatables was great.
The installation that generated the most anticipation and buzz was Ai Weiwei's gigantic Forever Bicycles, 2013 sculpture set in Nathan Phillips Square. This work expands on the piece that is currently on display at the AGO Ai Weiwei exhibition, which featured 42 bicycles melded together in a circular formation. Both sculptures reference the Forever Bicycle Company and comments on its waning dominance in providing China's primary mode of transportation. The bicycles in the Nuit Blanche installation are more stylized than those at the AGO. They are mounted in such a way that the structure appears fuzzy or blurry when you look at it from a certain angle. This piece is also unique in that it can be touched and interacted with by the public. There are pathways through the structure that you can walk through to view it "from the inside", and the wheels of the bicycles can be spun.
The exhibit called Little People was not only cute and whimsical, but it actually had a strong political message as well. The toy protest march, aptly held inside Toronto's City Hall, is in support for a similar event held in Russia to protest "alleged local election corruption". The Russian toy protest was held after live protests were banned by authorities, but was also banned. It reminds us of how lucky we are to live in a country where free speech is protected. The plastic toys held signs that read "Not Good Enough". I asked my Ukrainian friend, who grew up near the Russian border, what wasn't good enough. She answered, "Whatever people are upset about at the time - jobs, economy, political corruption, etc."
As we strolled through the night, we were passed multiple times by the roving Renegade Parade, which was not even an official Nuit Blanche 2013 event. But that did not stop the procession from swelling in the numbers. Revelers danced and followed behind the blaring music and glowing lights of the parade truck that led the way. The parade has become a yearly themed event. This year, participants were encouraged to dress up in animal costumes. Through social media, they were pointed to the Japanese costume store Kigurumi, that was offering a discount on their plush, full-body animal suits. The parade truck was made to resemble a zoo cage with bars to keep in the animals. We saw young people, dressed as lions, leopards, lizards, foxes, unicorns, bears and pink bunnies, all having the times of their lives.
The exhibit at Yonge Dundas Square was called the (Re)Generator Project, but I remember it as Toilet Paper Art. Multi-coloured rolls of toilet paper were used to create a sphere, a pointed hat, a rose and strategic covering for on photos of some otherwise nude men. I’m sure there was a loftier message to the pieces that speaks to saving environment, reuse, and recycling. But by the time we got to this exhibit, I was too tired to read the writeups and just enjoyed looking the pretty, vibrant works.
The food trucks were out in droves and making a killing during Nuit Blanche. There was a truck selling Tiny Tom Donuts, that reminded me of visiting the CNE. We decided to try a unique spin on French fries called the Tornado. It looked like a bunch of Pringles chips on a stick, but was actually slices of potato joined in a long spiral, deep fried and seasoned with a choice of sea salt, dill pickle, sour cream and onion, or buffalo wing spices. This made for an awesome late night snack and was as fun to eat as it was tasty.