Nuit Blanche T.O. amazes & inspires

Had a blast wandering the night and checking out the Nuit Blanche Parade exhibits and others with my good pal Lizzie Violet. I’ve included some highlights of the evening below.

What turned you on at Nuit Blanche this year?

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The Queen of the Parade, by Lisa Anita Wegner & Vanessa Lee Wishart. Multi-media artist/performer Lisa Anita Wegner, as the Queen, waves to the crowd from atop a 20-foot high gown.
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The Queen of the Parade – gown detail.
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Tortoise, by Michel de Broin. One of a series of assemblage sculptures made from picnic tables outside Campbell House. You could smell the cedar on this pleasantly cool fall evening. Warm cider was served there as well.
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Music Box, by John Dickson. A kinetic sculpture of musical instruments, creating eerie, otherworldly sounds all based on parts moving against each other.
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Ai Weiwei’s Forever Bicycles installation at Nathan Phillips Square.
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Forever Bicycles installation with Toronto City Hall in the background.
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Ferris Wheel, by Katharine Harvey.
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Parallax, by Idea Design Collective. A luminous, beehive-like effect – all done with cardboard tubes and light.
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(X)Static Clown Factory, by Ruth Spitzer & Claire Ironside. An interactive performance installation, where folks were invited to come up and do the clowns’ work. I think peeps got paid in balloons.
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Woman in the crowd with neon light hula hoop.
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There is an elephant in the truck, an indie installation by Laurence Vallières. Another impressive piece done with cardboard.
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Hybrid Globe, by Arthur Wrigglesworth, Mohammad Mehdi Ghiyaei & Mojtaba Samimi.
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Ad Astra, one of three indie projects by [R]ed[U]ux Lab at the Bata Shoe Museum.
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RevitaLight – another piece utilizing cardboard – at Bata Shoe Museum.
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Light_Scape, an interactive light installation at Bata Shoe Museum.
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On the way to Artscape Wychwood Barns, we encountered this sculpture artist at work on Bloor Street West. He uses only centre of gravity and balance to build these pieces.
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Yep, that’s a concrete block balancing on top. And set on fire to great effect.
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An assistant moves a piece on Chess Set, by Blandford Gates, an indie installation at Artscape Wychwood Barns.
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Chess players Tomas Krnan (L) and Peter Vavrak (R) play blindfolded, giving verbal instructions to their respective assistants to move pieces on the board. And having to remember where every piece is.
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The Queen of the Parade @ Nuit Blanche Toronto – interview with Lisa Anita Wegner & Vanessa Lee Wishart

Artist/filmmaker/performer Lisa Anita Wegner and designer/costumer/fashion artist Vanessa Lee Wishart have joined creative forces to create the Queen of the Parade, one of the featured exhibits of the curated Parade exhibition series for Toronto’s Nuit Blanche 2013, on this Saturday night (October 5) from 7 p.m. till 7 a.m. on Sunday, October 6.

LWMC: Hi Lisa and Vanessa. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview on your upcoming Queen of the Parade exhibit at Nuit Blanche. How did the two of you connect initially?

VLW: I met Lisa through my boyfriend Dennis Painter, who composed the sound for Lisa’s Pixel Paint the Night installation for Nuit Blanche 2012.

LAW: … He went above and beyond and created a breathtaking interactive soundscape to go with my live art making at The Revue Cinema. His music score tied Pixel Paint the Night together exquisitely. Dennis said, “You should meet” – and, boy, am I glad I did.

LWMC: Did you come to work together with a specific project in mind, or did your collaborative work evolve more organically after your initial meeting?

LAW: I had just met Vanessa when I had the idea of a huge dress with a screen on the front – about a year and a half ago. By then, I knew Vanessa’s fashion artistry, and liked her sensibility and her previous work. She had already taken home multiple Nuit Blanche Fashion awards in previous years. If there was anyone to make this gown, it was Vanessa.

VLW: The installation began as an idea Lisa had, where Disney princesses and Big Fat Gypsy Wedding inspired her. She originally wanted a gown to wear for Nuit Blanche 2013. I changed the design and suggested that we go bigger, and use various fabrics to get the “gypsy” feel.

LWMC: Tell us about the Queen of the Parade installation for Nuit Blanche 2013. What sparked or inspired the concept for the Queen of the Parade?

VLW: We wanted to explore the aspect of the role of females and the femininity within society.

LAW: I had been fascinated by the UK reality series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. I was mesmerized by their fashion – I love over the top, huge, bright clothing and genuinely appreciated the sense that nothing was too much. I was horrified by the options for role models behind the clothes: Disney Princess or Pop Star or some combination of the two. I remember having this in my head and walking my dogs one night while listening to Lady Gaga. With the huge dresses dancing in my head and the song “Marry The Night” playing, I remember the moment this idea was born. I came home and did the two sketches that I sent over with the pictures. First working title was the obvious Marry The Night, second was I Fuck Like A Man (after I’d been told that) and the third working title (which we originally submitted to Nuit Blanche) was That Kind Of Woman. At that point, the video content on the skirt was going to be commentary based on my experiences of being told I was not a good example for women because I act like a man. That was the spark.

LWMC: The Parade exhibition for Nuit Blanche subverts the traditional notion of “parade” in that it is the spectators who are moving through the spectacle, as opposed to the parade moving past the crowd – and the audience becomes part of the exhibit instead of passive observers. How, if at all, did/does this curatorial vision for the exhibition influence the work as you’re preparing for Nuit Blanche?

LAW: When we were brought into the vision of Patrick McCauley’s Parade, we simplified the idea. The content on the screen became walking legs to give the illusion of the parade moving. And the dress got bigger. Originally, I thought I would be on the ground with a three-foot screen. The Queen is now 20 feet tall and the screen is 10 feet tall. For [the] look, we researched parade queens from all over the world.

VLW: Through the use of projections, the “Queen” will appear to be moving, even though she is stationary. The viewer will have an impression of a traditional parade, while experiencing something new.

LWMC: The Queen of the Parade explores depictions and perceptions of femininity, in particular, regarding the concept of “the queen,” a traditional/historical position of power across cultures, but often viewed as being a lower status than a king. Since this is your first collaboration together, how did the two of you navigate the process of envisioning, then executing, the work?

LAW: Once we were brought on to the Parade, we both did separate research on Parades, Parade Queens, Queens and wedding gowns from all cultures. We shared research and the same images resounded with both of us, and I was happy with the very first sketches that Vanessa showed me. I felt like we are on the same page and I trust her creatively. We found the same virgin/whore theme in the parade queen research.

VLW: Lisa and I researched the role/history of the Queen within parades. We found that they are the highlight of the parade, the ultimate of feminine ideal. Kings within parades are usually of little or no importance. The Queen is symbol of royalty and power. Within North America, the Queen represents the most beautiful, pure and innocent. In South America, the Queen represents not only the most beautiful, but female fertility and sexuality. The Queen is an ideal many women try to attain.

LWMC: Lisa, when we were initially in touch to book this interview, you mentioned that you have a special part to play in the exhibit. I’ve seen your photos and sketches – and they look amazing – but I’m hesitant to put any spoilers out there. What can you say about it – or do you want folks to be surprised when they see it?

LAW: I kind of like that people – even after seeing process photos – really don’t have a sense of what this is going to be. And let’s keep it like that. The City chose, for PR, only to use a corner of my mock-up image. So as to not spill the beans.

LWMC: Vanessa, did you engage live models for the exhibit – or do you want that to be a surprise on the night? Will visitors have a chance to speak with you at the exhibit?

VLW: There are two live performers for the exhibit. I will be at the installation at various times during the evening. I would love to hear from the public.

LWMC: What do you hope folks will take away with them when they see the Queen of the Parade?

LAW: I hope the experience of the Art Parade will feel as exciting as a parade did for me when I was a kid – I am very interested in experiential art. The absurd proportions and playfulness of the installation, I hope invite the audience in – and from seeing our installation, people might reflect on why in 2013, with all the choices for women, two images offered repeatedly are a princess/bride/virgin and starlet/vamp/whore.

VLW: We want the crowd to feel that they were “in the parade” and involved.

LWMC: Any plans for continuing with this project or remounting it? Any plans for further collaboration on other work?

LAW: We are intending to take this Queen to other Nuit Blanche; we are keeping her afterward. I would love to take her to New York and Vanessa would love Paris. I feel certain that Vanessa and I will continue to work together. An upcoming installation of mine (working title) is Neverwet on White and it requires a white dress, and Vanessa is the one I want to make it. Vanessa also made me a nifty Wonder Woman corset to wear when I did the “Art Saved My Life” talk as part of WonderFest past year.

VLW: I would love to work with Lisa again, and I hope that this exhibit will be remounted in the future.

LWMC: Cool! Any other upcoming events/exhibits that either of you want to shout out?

LAW: Vanessa is opening a show the same night as Nuit Blanche, she can tell you about it. I have a whole array of installations in the works, but the Queen is my current focus.

VLW: I am currently working on Night of the Living Dead: Live! at Theatre Passe Muraille, as well as Evil Dead: The Musical at The Bathurst Street Theatre. Come see it! If you would like to view more of my work, please visit my website. Please contact me at vlwishart@gmail.com

LWMC: Thanks again, ladies! Looking forward to seeing The Queen of the Parade on Saturday night.

You can also check out Lisa Anita Wegner’s work on her blog, MySpace page and YouTube channel.

Be sure to come out and experience The Queen of the Parade at Queen St. West/University this Saturday night. Here’s a sneak peek, images courtesy of Lisa Anita Wegner:

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The Queen of the Parade – Queen adjusting
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The Queen of the Parade – Queen underthings
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The Queen of the Parade – sketch 1
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The Queen of the Parade – sketch 2

Wandering the night in Toronto – Nuit Blanche 2012

From 7 p.m. till sunrise, Toronto celebrated arts, culture and entertainment all night long.

Dancers at the Rivoli
Musicians at the Rivoli

Here are some images and impressions from the evening. Janis and I missed Dr. Draw at the Rivoli, as he was running late and we had friends to meet, but we did see a group of dancers and a pair of musicians out on the front patio stage.

Palm Authority installation
Light and sound installation at City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square
Looking out from City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square

After the Rivoli, we met up with Lizzie and Leah at Shanghai Cowgirl for a late dinner before heading out into the downtown core, where we saw several art installations, including some work at City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square.

Sound wave drawing – Bata Shoe Museum
Sound wave drawing – Bata Shoe Museum

We made our way north, through the UofT campus and stopped by the Bata Shoe Museum, where we saw this neat sound wave drawing that wrapped around the entire room.

Artscape Wychwood Barns, Barn #2 ceiling
Artscape Wychwood Barns – Small Audiences marquee, featuring Lizzie Violet’s poetry set

From there, we took the subway and streetcar up to Artscape Wychwood Barns – Barn #2, where we saw a solo performance of a section of Fifty Monologues – Ghosts, a collection of female monologues from Shakespeare by actor Rebecca Singh. This was part of Theatre Local’s Small Audiences program – inside the smallest theatre space in the city: http://theatrelocal.org/category/works/small-audiences/

After a coffee and snack break, we went back into the space to see Lizzie’s horror poetry set, The Undead Night. Reading three of the zombie series pieces (attack, transformation and pursuit), as well as pieces about other undead creatures, like “Corpse Flower,” and the darkly comic “My Mother Thinks I’m A Serial Killer,” Lizzie’s work is raw, visceral and sometimes disturbing, yet beautifully written – and even sometimes funny.

After that, we were done and made our ways home. To bed. I’d made it till 4 a.m. and by the time I schlepped home on the all-night TTC service, it was 5:15 a.m.

A great evening of art and friends, with lots of walking. And coffee. If you ever get a chance to venture out for Nuit Blanche – do. There’s lots to see and places to go – some more crowded than others – and it’s a great adventure.

Between the Sheets, February & Gay Play Days – plus Nuit Blanche!

The good times just keep on rollin’, my friends. Here are just a few fabulous arts and culture events happening right now or coming up soon:

Nightwood Theatre’s production of Jordi Mand’s Between the Sheets at Tarragon Theatre (extra space) – started its run last night and runs until Sun, Oct 7. Directed by Kelly Thornton, and featuring actors Susan Coyne and Christine Horne. Get the 411 on this production at Nightwood’s site: http://www.nightwoodtheatre.net/index.php/whats_on/between_the_sheets#tab1

The world premiere of Lisa Moore’s play February at Alumnae Theatre (main stage) – Fri, Sept 21 – Sat, Oct 6 with a Q&A talkback with Moore, director Michelle Alexander, and the cast and creative team after the Sun, Sept 23 matinee. For details and reservations, visit the Alumnae website: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/1213feb.html

Gay Play Days, a festival of LGBT theatre, at Alumnae Theatre (studio) – Fri, Sept 28 and Sat, Sept 29 at 8 p.m. Featuring short plays: Intervention by Bruce Harrott, The Object of Her Attraction by Tina McCulloch, Stupid Bitch by Durango Miller and Ramblings of a Middle-aged Drag Queen by Darren Stewart-Jones (starring Philip Cairns), as well as a staged reading of Sky Gilbert’s Hamilton Bus Stop, starring Ellen-Ray Hennessy. For the scoop, visit their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GayPlayDay

Nuit Blanche 2012 (Toronto) lands a bit early this year – starting Sat, Sept 29 at 7 :03 p.m. and running till sunrise on Sun, Sept 30. I’ll be heading out to see Dr. Draw (http://drdraw.ca/) at the Rivoli at 8 p.m. and Lizzie Violet reading horror poetry in Small Audiences at the Theatre Local space at Artscape Wychwood Barns  at 3:30 a.m., among other artists. Check out the program/locations here: http://www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca/

Upcoming music, poetry & spoken word

I have to say, I’ve really been diggin’ all the poetry/spoken word events I’ve attended over the past year – thanks to my good friend Lizzie Violet. There is so much talent in this city – and you can see and experience so much for little to no $.

Coming up this week: The Beautiful and the Damned music and poetry cabaret at Glad Day Bookshop (598A Yonge St., Toronto) on Thurs, Sept 13 from  7 – 10 p.m., hosted by DM Moore. This month’s hounoured dead celeb is Gore Vidal, and the featured line-up includes David Bateman, Jacob Scheier and Jessica Speziale. There are open mic slots available too – get there early to sign up.

Kirk DeMatas (who read at Smash Words at The Press Club last month) will be launching his collection of poems Conversations with Skeletons at Glad Day on Sat, Sept 15 from 6-8 p.m.

For more info on Glad Day and their upcoming events, visit their website: http://www.gladdaybookshop.com/events.html

Save the date: Saturday, September 29 7 p.m. till Sunday, September 30 7 a.m. for this year’s Nuit Blanche. Lizzie Violet will be reading selections of her horror poetry at the Theatre Local at their space at Artscape Wychwood Barns at 3:30 a.m. As part of their fundraising drive for this event, they’re selling button portraits of the participating artists! For details, check out Lizzie’s blog post here: http://lizzieviolet.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/a-new-lizzie-violet-feature-and-raising-funds-for-theatre-local-for-nuit-blanche/