Display of contemporary art in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, during 2021 Nuit Blanche, part of Culture Days
Nuit Blanche Winnipeg is a free nighttime exploration and celebration of contemporary art. The concept originated in France in 1984 and spread to many cities around the world. It debuted in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, in 2010.
The event in Winnipeg usually takes place on the last Saturday in September or the first Saturday in October as part of Culture Days, a national celebration of arts and culture with free participatory arts and culture events across Canada.
Each year an open call is held for artists to propose pieces for Nuit Blanche Winnipeg. A jury of artists and art professionals selects the projects which are featured in Winnipeg’s downtown core.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 event has been set up a little differently. Nuit Blanche Winnipeg’s Illuminate the Night, the juried selection of ten art pieces, is on display for the full length of Culture Days, which this year runs for a full month from September 24 to October 24. The pieces are located in various locations in the downtown, the Exchange District, the West End, the Forks, and St. Boniface. They are set up in a way that allows distanced viewing.
A friend and I spent an evening exploring the 2021 Illuminate the Night pieces. The distance between the pieces means trying to see them all in one evening involves driving. A couple of the pieces weren’t easy to spot, but seemed very obvious when we did find them.
Although the 2021 event lacks the energy that comes with a lot of people out in one place at the same time to experience the art, it is good that the organizers found a way for the event to continue. With the pieces spread out over space and time, we had ample opportunity to study them without other people around. Some of the pieces seemed odd at first (or even second) glance, but became more interesting as I learned about the meaning behind them.
(I wrote about CLOUD, an art piece in the 2016 Winnipeg Nuit Blanche that captivated me. The interactive nature of this piece, which invited a lot of people to engage with it, would not work in today’s physically distanced world. Read what I wrote about CLOUD here.)
Here is a look at a few of the pieces.
stay | flame a postcard from my home is a colour-shifting video of a spinning ceiling fan. Originally conceived during the COVID-19 lockdown, the fan in the artist’s home provided a way to suspend reality. Watch a video of the piece below.
Several of the pieces featured television sets.
PanoptiBot: Defacement in the Surveillance Age, located in the Little Brown Jug Brewing Co., features a series of giant robotic faces on free standing walls made of lights, monitors, mirrors, wires, and tubes. We appeared on the screens as we approached them. The sculpture by Toxic is meant to represent how the trappings of surveillance capitalism united into a monster capable of mass manipulation.
Luv Lite by Joshua Banman is an interactive, augmented-reality art installation in the display windows of The Exchange District BIZ offices. It features a dozen CRT televisions. The artist said he hoped the use of CRTs would evoke a sense of nostalgia for technology that is familiar but no longer available. A hidden camera inside rabbit ears captures audience members on the screen. The augmented reality mask creates light beams emitting from their eyes and hands evoking a narrative that the light we need to see comes from within.
Since light was an important aspect of all the pieces, we were surprised by the lack of light with April Dawn-95. However, when we read the words on the piece it became clear why there was no light.
On the Nuit Blanche website, artist Deanna Davis says she’d planned for her submission “to be full of bells and whistles covered in glitter with lights and a fog machine . . . After learning more and more information about the residential schools, anything flashy would be in poor taste.”
In addition to the juried Illuminate the Night pieces, Nuit Blanche Winnipeg offered an open invitation for individuals, organizations, and groups to create independent projects and host events spread out between September 24 and October 24. Twenty-four such events or projects are listed on their website.
Artist and fashion designer Lennard Taylor created one of those independent projects. Textile Waste Reimagined in front of his clothing store in the Exchange District reimagines a cloud of textile waste into something beautiful and encourages consumers to become more conscious citizens advocating for social and environmental justice within the fashion industry.
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