Nuit Blanche 2014 puts spotlight on the audience

As the sun beat a slow retreat behind the towers surrounding Olympic Plaza on Sept. 20, hundreds gathered for this year’s edition of Nuit Blanche.

It marked Calgary’s second incarnation of the late-night, open-air contemporary art extravaganza, which hosted a dozen artists from around the world and an additional six exhibitions, more than doubling the six presenters that comprised Nuit Blanche 2012.

Beckoned by the Calgary Public Art Program’s Limelight on Stephen Avenue, and further guided by the percussive procession giving way to Wednesday Lupypciw’s The Feminist Supremacy, the hundreds quickly became thousands as night descended upon the area.

Wayne Baerwaldt, the director and curator of the event, was quick to address this year’s changes from the previous iteration of Nuit Blanche.

“We thought we would put a focus on performance art,” he said.

“In 2012 and even in the festivals in Toronto [and] Montreal, there was a disconnect between the artists and the audience.”

In an attempt to present the sort of intimacy that comes from performance art, they’ve tried to eliminate the separation this year, Baerwaldt added.

Limelight, for instance, literally turned the spotlight on the audience.

Two street lamps at the east end of Stephen Avenue were converted into theater lights and provided the crowd of nocturnal party-goers the opportunity to earn their own applause.

Parents hoisted children in spontaneous dance performances and young couples awkwardly demonstrated sleight of hand tricks.

Other performances on offer included a sensuous spider-like mating ritual, a vintage splashdown capsule floating in a reflecting pool, eccentric fortune tellers in a series of eerily-lit tents, and a chilling, bird-calling orchestra of unmoving mammals.

“The audience will immediately feel like they are a part of the performances,” said Baerwaldt, as the evening got under way.

Organizers had hoped maybe 300 people would show up. But it ended up being something more like 10,000 for the start of the event. Baerwaldt estimated upwards of 20,000 people would make their way down to Olympic Plaza by the event’s 1 a.m. wrap-up.

For information on the artists present, and archives of past exhibitions, check out the official Nuit Blanche Calgary website.

A volunteer in a twisted elk mask poses ominously as a member of the "Symphony for Absent Wildlife". Lucy and Jorge Orta designed their eerie performance to pay homage to the once abundant diversity of wildlife that roamed Alberta and the northern plains. (Photo by Neil Reid/The Press)
Giving wildlife a different voice. A volunteer in a twisted elk mask poses ominously as a member of the “Symphony for Absent Wildlife”. (Photo by Neil Reid/The Press)


About Neil Reid 4 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Neil Reid is working as a reporter for The Press during the 2014-2015 academic year.