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White Night: A Tale of Nuit Blanche

Last summer, when whiteout parties were taking over whole blocks of downtown Winnipeg and all I saw were people in stylized white outfits, I knew there would be a white night I’d enjoy more in a few months. As an artist, poet and photographer, my favorite night of the year is always Nuit Blanche.

Nuit Blanche 2019

I often wonder where I’ll end up when Nuit Blanche finally arrives. There are a lot of options, and I find myself wondering where I should go on the longest night of art exhibitions in the city. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about that for very long this year because friends of mine already had plans in place to start off the night.

Slam! All-Star Poets Compete For Your Scores!

Thom Bargen Coffee and Tea

Having been a member of the spoken word community for a long time, I was pleased to be asked to perform at Winnipeg Poetry Slam’s Nuit Blanche event. I was also part of the Winnipeg Poetry Slam team for 2018, which later competed in the National Poetry Slam in Guelph, part of the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.

For Nuit Blanche, seven of us poets got together, and we gave art lovers a show to start off the night! It was a great opportunity for me because I was able to introduce new friends of mine to the spoken word community; they’d never been to a poetry slam before and had no idea what to expect. I find that these are often the best minds to have at a poetry slam, as they’re the most receptive and will get the most out of the poetry itself. With a small group of artists, poets, and other art enthusiasts in tow, I started us off on our journey through Nuit Blanche. Here are a few of the installations we saw as we ventured forth into the night.

“Hand of the Machine” by Solmund MacPherson

Millennium Library Courtyard

Photo courtesy of Nuit Blanche Winnipeg. Situated next to another installation (“emptyful”) in the courtyard behind the Millennium Library was our first installation of the night: a massive and well-lit hand stretching out into the night air, with control levers that moved the fingers. In some cases, interactive art installations are built to last. But by the time we arrived, about an hour and a half into Nuit Blanche, the middle finger was broken and hanging limp in the middle of the palm. While we were there, I also saw the installation fall forward more than once, like a wrestler trying to tap out. Instead, someone picked it up and put it back into the fight. Before leaving we grabbed a few free books from the assortment the library had set up, and I played a game of oversized Connect 4.

“No, I’ve never herd of bison” by Kale Bonham and Todd Scott

Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park

To be honest, I don’t think I appreciated this installation enough. It was a group of sound-activated bison next to the illumination board that lines the back side of Upper Fort Garry Park. When we got there, there wasn’t much noise to trigger the bison to react, so we moved on quickly. However, I’ve since seen images of the installation reacting to crowds of people, and it looks quite interesting!

“Run For Your Lite” by Wood Anchor and Cloverdale Forge

Esplanade Riel bridge landing

After a stop in The Forks Market to grab a bite to eat and a coffee, we moved on to the next few installations, but none caught my eye like this one. You could see the installation for what it was: Free energy. It took the form of a large wooden “hamster wheel” with a handle bar to grip, covered with lights and connected to turbines that would not only illuminate the installation but also power a nearby forge. The crowd was as loud as the machine itself, shouting support to friends who decided to try their hand at powering the forge!

We sat and watched people compete to see who could keep running the longest, all the while drawing cheers of support from onlookers. It seemed like 5 to 8 minutes was the best folks could handle before the momentum started making them slip or lose their balance. It was definitely entertaining to watch as we ate the food we bought (seating inside was impossible to find) before walking up to Waterfront to move on to the Exchange District.

“Control No Control” by Daniel Iregui & “Container Architecture” by Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

Bijou Park, East of Old Market Square

Setup alongside Old Market Square, Bijou Park (which hosts Kids Fringe activities during the summer festival) hosted two displays during this year’s Nuit Blanche. On one side of the park, “Control No Control” featured a massive LED panel that reacted to both touch and sound input from the ever-growing crowd around it. On the other side of the park, nestled up to the side of Smoke’s Poutinerie, the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation set up a converted shipping container. It featured various other architectural projects around the world, showcasing the use of shipping containers as raw materials to build sustainable structures and housing. As a big supporter of sustainable living initiatives, this struck home with me.

“Impulse” presented by The Winnipeg Arts Council

Old Market Square

One of the biggest installations I’ve seen, “Impulse” was a collection of massive light-beam seesaws for riders of all ages. No matter how many videos or pictures I tried to take of this spectacle, none could do it justice. Every face in Old Market Square that night was filled with excitement and exhilaration!

There were many other ways for everyone to enjoy Nuit Blanche last year, including community events, gallery shows, and live exhibitions throughout the night. I hope my memories of Nuit Blanche have inspired you to make some memories of your own this year!

Mark September 28 in your calendar, and share your favourite Nuit Blanche memories in the comments!