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U of T's Christine Shaw curates “can't-miss” Nuit Blanche exhibit

Exhibit includes work by Professor Charles Stankievech

Black Cloud 2007 by Carlos Morales, which features a swarm of 30,000 black paper moths (all images courtesy Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2015)

Hot lava, a human glacier and thousands of paper moths are just a few of the sights you’ll see this weekend if you head into Toronto for the annual Scotiabank Nuit Blanche artfest.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the annual all-night traveling art walk, with an exhibit roster that includes more than 110 works by nearly 400 artists on display at indoor and outdoor locations around downtown Toronto.

Read more about Nuit Blanche at the University of Toronto's downtown campus

photo of Christine ShawFor the first time in the event’s history, Nuit Blanche will embrace the city’s waterfront, with a city-sponsored exhibit curated by Christine Shaw (pictured at right), director and curator of U of T Mississauga’s Blackwood Gallery and a lecturer with UTM’s Visual Studies program.

The Toronto Star's Murray Whyte said the program “provides much of the meat of Nuit Blanche” in his article on events to watch for this year.

“Sure to be ominous, spectacular and a little scary, it’s probably a good thing it’s down on Sugar Beach; should an urgent cooling be needed, the lake is just a step away.”

(Read how The Toronto Star named The Work of the Wind as one of the 10 can’t-miss stops on the Nuit Blanche route.)

Wind is a series of 13 separate but related artworks inspired by the Beaufort wind force scale, a qualitative measurement used by the British Royal Navy to describe the effects of wind upon the sails of a frigate. A calm day with no wind (Beaufort 0) features a “sea like a mirror; smoke rises vertically.” Under stormy gusts (Beaufort 10), “the tumbling of the sea becomes heavy; trees uprooted, structural damage occurs.” Drawing on the language of the scale – drifting, tumbling, scattering, swaying, impeding, damaging, breaking, uprooting – The Work of Wind unfurls 13 forces as artworks, from Beaufort 0 (Calm) to Beaufort 12 (Hurricane), along Toronto's shoreline at locations along Queens Quay between Parliament Street and Lower Simcoe Street.

Shaw has organized large-scale collections before, including Public Acts 1-29, a collection of 29 works along the Trans-Canada Highway between British Columbia and New Brunswick. When Shaw discovered the Beaufort scale – “the most exquisite 110 words ever written,” she says she knew it “was full of potential for experimentation.” 

“So many forces impact us that we can’t see, like climate change or global currency,” Shaw says. “This is about harnessing the power of art to make the invisible visible, and the inaudible audible.”

“I hope audiences the force of the wind,” she says. “I hope they get caught up in the operatic experience, from floating in the sky to the impact of an explosion, and feel the connection between each of these pieces.”

Works in the series include a 12-hour lava flow, a 75-person human glacier, floating and video projection installations, and a swarm of 30,000 black paper moths. The exhibit showcases a dozen artists and collectives, including Tim Knowles, whose work is also featured in the current Blackwood exhibit The Pen Moves Across the Earth, U of T professor Charles Stankievech, director of the visual studies program in the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, and Christof Migone, former director and curator of the Blackwood Gallery. UTM students in Shaw’s Visual Arts summer internship course assisted with development of the exhibition.

The Work of the Wind, a selection of artworks, includes:

  • Beaufort 0: Cumulus is a video installation by Tomás Saraceno that explores the idea of living in the clouds. (Victoria Soya Mills Silos, Parliament Street)
  • Beaufort 1: Dispersal Zone by Knowles will see smoke billowing from the streetlights, providing a cloudlike interplay with the air currents and atmosphere. (Artscape, Gibralter Point)
  • Beaufort 3: Glaciology, a performance piece by The Anandam Dancetheatre, will evoke the flow of glaciers and the shifting of humanity as 75 dancers travel along Queens Quay. (369 Lake Shore East to Lower Simcoe Street)
  • Beaufort 4: Lava Field No. 2. by Robert Wysocki includes a mobile coke-fired volcano that will spill lava across the parking lot at George Brown College for 12 hours. (51 Dockside Drive)
  • Beaufort 11: The Cleaving by British duo Ivan and Heather Morison, features a rubble barricade across Queens Quay East (at Lower Jarvis).

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche runs from Saturday, October 3 from 6:55 p.m until sunrise on Sunday, October 4. Find The Work of the Wind along Toronto’s waterfront, between Parliament Street and Harbourfront Centre.

Read more about The Work of the Wind and Nuit Blanche 

(Blake Eligh is a writer with the University of Toronto Mississauga)