Nuit Blanche Toronto, or, Pull Up A Chair

On my way home from work yesterday, a short-turning streetcar forced me to get off several stops before I got to Queen Street subway station. While some may see this as a setback, since we’re entering Nuit Blanche territory, I actually got a sneak preview of some beautiful art.

Garden Tower in Toronto, 2013 by Tadashi Kawamata

Garden Tower in Toronto, 2013 by Tadashi Kawamata


In the courtyard of the Metropolitan United Church, at Queen East and Church Streets, there is a massive structure already in place. Chairs are stacked in an unpredictable jumble around two storeys high. It looks at once so massive that it could never be dislodged, and so fragile that it will fall over in the next strong wind. Though the immediate area around the installation is fenced off, the courtyard was buzzing with people speculating as to what the sculpture meant, and what it will be used for.


The structure is actually Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata’s Garden Tower, part of the Off To A Flying Start section of the exhibits. According to the official artist’s statement, viewers are meant to ponder how art made up of inanimate objects can call up memories and traces of people who once used them. How do these objects speak to our ideas about culture, generations, myths, and the utopian ideal of the Babel Tower; the art asks how humanity can speak with one voice and work together towards a better future.


This installation art is not the only place in Toronto where kitchen chairs are used to show the universality of culture. A group of statues in Kensington Market, created in 2000 by David Hlynsky and Shirley Yanover use the symbols of the globe, cats and kitchen chairs to inspire viewers to consider the neighbourhood’s simultaneous international and domestic character. While people come from all over the world to live in Kensington Market, they turn it into a home, and a cozy place to discuss some of the city’s unique multiculturalism.


Chairs are also featured in local artist Bruno Bilio’s interactive installation Familia. Located at the Church of the Holy Trinity, the exhibit features mismatched kitchen chairs gathered from households, and the audience is meant to move them around on a mirrored floor while listening to the sounds the chairs make. Try to hear the sound of a family pulling up their chairs for dinner.


The exhibit I am most excited to see at Nuit Blanche is Alain Declerq’s performance art, Crash Cars at Nathan Phillips Square. Though many people may be going to see the highly anticipated Ai Weiwei Forever Bicycles installation just next to it, I’m sure Crash Cars will steal people’s attention as well. The idea is simple: two driverless cars are set to loop at the same speed, endlessly threatening to collide on their figure-eight course. While the art is meant to make us humble viewers question the structures of power that order our lives, it is certain that people will come away with a variety of thoughts after seeing this heart-pounding exhibit.