Here’s a quick look at some of the night’s most memorable shows, parties and exhibition
1. Place des Arts
By: Elijah Bukreev
It’s safe to say the place was absolutely unrecognizable. One surfaces out of the metro and finds themselves in the middle of an attraction park straight out of Shenzhen, the featured international city of the night. It took a few minutes to adjust to the plethora of lights, smells and sights all around the main streets of Place des Arts.
Huge crowds, people flying on a zip-line right above your head, others zipping by your side on a giant slide. Snowflakes turning red, blue or green from the amount of lights flashing from above. Smells of cotton candy, poutine, maple syrup and marshmallows burning over a fire all merging into one intoxicatingly sweet aroma. Such were the pleasures of Nuit Blanche in the arts district of the city. A towering ferris wheel stood in the centre of it all, giving people a chance to look down at all the madness occurring below.
How spectacular that organizers would succeed at effectively supplanting one city with another—looking at pictures of Shenzhen exhibited outside, you’d swear you were there. Chinese culture was present mostly in the form of Mr. Monopoly-like Confucius figures, but it was the transformation of Place des Arts that left the biggest impression.
By: Elijah Bukreev
In a perfect contrast, the events organized around UQÀM were quiet, attracting only those who preferred a peaceful, reflective and ultimately more artsy and academic atmosphere to the loud spectacle of Place des Arts. The ever-present smell of wood fires was not from children roasting marshmallows but young people trying to keep warm while caught up in conversation.
Grave, ominous music played over kaleidoscopic images projected onto a church while streaks of light connected trees, as if representing some energy running between them. It was an opportunity to experience the architecture of the place in a new way; an exhibition devoted to Montreal architecture, presented inside, was a perfect addition to the event.
In keeping with its academic tone and setting, the area offered activities that put personal expression and political debate to the forefront in an artistically daring way. Most striking was the hanging of messages of hope locked in miniature bottles, to be read only in case of “doubt.”
3. The PHI Centre
By: Elijah Bukreev
Hidden away in the historic district was one of the most popular parties of the night, a multidisciplinary celebration of art known as La Nuit Tribe. All with the psychedelic music of acclaimed DJs blasting in its pleasantly foggy interiors, the Centre treated visitors to the work of MissMe, as well as to a whole new programming for its Virtual Reality Garden.
MissMe, a masked Montreal-based street artist, was on site to create a collage from images she had made with a view to challenge typical representation of the female body. Her message resonated with the public, as the room gradually filled up to watch her cover the walls of the upper-floor exhibition room with her designs.
The new works of virtual reality unveiled at Nuit Blanche confirmed that, apart from its potential for news media and storytelling, the medium can be experimented with to create unique works of contemporary art. These 360-degree pieces, which use urban overtones that align nicely with MissMe’s style, must be experienced to understand why virtual reality might soon become a vital part of our artistic landscape.
By: Lydia Anderson
The familiar, lofty foyer of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal was soaked in lustrous red light beams as people excited their creativity with the crayons, paint and paper provided. Along with art workshops, visitors were able to peruse longstanding exhibitions L’Œil et l’Esprit and New Discoveries and Other Obsessions. The show-stealer under the MAC’s roof, however, was the work of Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson.
Marking his first major show in Canada, Kjartansson has laid siege to the MAC and claimed victory with his three video installations, The Visitors (2012), A Lot of Sorrow (2013-2014) and World Light – The Life and Death of an Artist (2015).
The Visitors, the most enchanting, is a nine-channel projection showing Kjartansson and his friends performing the same song, with various instruments and vocals, from different rooms of an old house in upstate New York. For nearly an hour the group—apart but connected by headphones—performed simultaneously while being filmed. They were divided in space but connected by music, in the end producing a hypnotic melody that echoes throughout the MAC’s chamber of beautiful videos. It’s a breathtaking combination of resplendent music, immersive art and cinematography.
The MAC was the first stop of many on a promising Nuit Blanche, but despite all that was waiting, the room, so filled with evident passion and incredible harmonies and imagery, was nearly too alluring to leave.
5. Espace Scuderi
By: Lydia Anderson
You know a good show is beginning when the banality of a woman checking the microphone turns into the sensual performance of a powerful climax.
Espace Scuderi opened two months ago in the Gay Village and, having already seen great success with their recent erotic art exposition, the intimate space hosted a modern burlesque show for Nuit Blanche.
Performances were dramatic, theatrical, amusing, intimate or abstract and interludes were filled with sexy comedic relief. Nudity, eroticism and sensuality were expressed in both a playful, entertaining way and as beautiful tools of expression.
The room resonated with the hooting sounds of an engaged audience and was filled with a high, frisky energy. The performers were in conversation with their audience and the small space facilitated the more personal experience.
The audience members were even offered to participate in the last segment of the show. Those who chose to participate gathered in the front with the performers, closed their eyes and followed an instructive voice. What started as focus on breathing gradually turned into the respectful but erotic exploration of adjacent bodies with closed eyes.
“It’s a really open space,” said Nathan A. Scuderi, the founder. “That’s why it’s not called Galerie Scuderi, but Espace Scuderi.” Having been open for only two months, it has proved its validity and potential as a venue. Whether it’s because of sexual frustration or not, Espace Scuderi will leave you wanting more.
*The show was produced by Juliette Pottier Plaziat (Coeur de Lyon) and Dr. Blooz Ballz.
6. Fresh Paint
By: Lydia Anderson
The Nuit Blanche festivities were particularly noteworthy this year for Fresh Paint—a volunteer-run project founded in 2011 with a focus on street art—as the evening marked the opening of their new gallery location on Ste. Catherine Street.
“[Fresh Paint is] kind of the baby of the Under Pressure festival,” said Chani Caron Piché, the communications manager for Fresh Paint Gallery. “We wanted to bring street artists and graffiti writers out of the street and bring them in galleries to help them develop their art and their career.”
Entering the bright location from the snowy exterior meant being greeted by the familiar sight of a red stripe and blue ribbon that marked the Pabst cans in many of the hands of Nuit Blanchers wandering around the room. Accompanied by a live DJ set, the evening featured four artists collaborating in a live-painting session to produce a large mural that sweeps across one of the gallery walls.
Additionally, along with the offering of a new gallery exhibition that was full of politically-charged and unique works, guests were also invited to engage and collaborate by adding their creative touches to a painting at the front of the venue.
The works featured in the gallery space have distinct, recognizable styles, emblematic of the graffiti and street art movements, especially as some of those stylistic signatures can be recognized on Montreal streets. That in itself gives the space an authentic and relatable essence.