Snow doesn’t stop Nuit Blanche

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Brrrright lights (and art). Brrrright lights (and art)

Night-time festival reflects on relationship to the land

Please note that the writer was part of the festival but that, sometimes in art, the best vantage point point is first person

Nuit Blanche Regina celebrated its second festival on the evening of Sunday, September 29 as a part of Regina Culture Days.

Nuit Blanche is a festival that is held across the world but its origins date back to the early 1990s in Nantes, France with the invent of “Les Allumées” or “Things Alight”. Then, in October of 2002, the first Nuit Blanche took place in Paris, where contemporary art filled the night across the city with festivalgoers able to enter museums and galleries for free into the wee hours of the night.

Montréal was the first Canadian city to adopt the tradition of hosting Nuit Blanche in 2004 as part of a multi-day winter festival Montréal en lumière and is where artistic director of Nuit Blanche Regina, Michelle Harazny, first experienced the festival.

“I went to Nuit Blanche in Montréal every year I was there and so I knew that it was a fun festival. Then when I moved back here a couple of years ago, I thought there could be something like that started here! I was inspired by the local artists here in Regina and Saskatchewan and also [by] the community support when I mentioned this idea.” Harazny says.

In French, a nuit blanche, which translates literally to “white night”, refers to a sleepless night. This year’s Nuit Blanche Regina, which received funding from the Saskatchewan Arts Board, City of Regina and many other local businesses, seemed to fit both translations as bleak weather conditions looked as though they would impede festivalgoers.

Regina awoke to a snowy Sunday morning with the situation only worsening over the course of the day due to wind and dropping temperatures. However, several installations and performances which were to take place outdoors were moved inside last minute and those wanting to take in a magical night of free art were not intimidated by the unpredictable Saskatchewan weather.

This year’s artists included: Ricardo Bizafra (Brazil); Estelle Bonetto; Ian Campbell; Eric Hill; Holophon; Madhu Kumar; Anna-Leigh King and Guests; Listen to Dis; Cachene, Hernani and Lopez Lopez; Jeff Meldrum, Anastasia Pearce; Karen Rose; Belle Brown-McEwen and Ben Schneider; Zoë Schneider; Melanie Barnett & Blaire Trenaman and Sarah Cummings-Truszkowski.

Situated on the second floor of 1945 Scarth Street (Part of the strip of buildings that house popular establishments such as O’Hanlon’s and Copper Kettle) were several installations and performances.

Eric Hill’s “Garbage Vortex” used suspended pieces of aluminum trays and containers, projection, and a fan. The result has a low hum of the materials clanking together and spinning in a cyclone-like pattern. Hill took inspiration from Regina’s downtown and the pockets of wild wind that are created in the nest of the area’s tall buildings.

Jeff Meldrum’s “Infinite Horizons” offered a dizzying illusion with the mysterious orb as its anchor. Audience entered a dark room to find the orb floating in the centre of the room with projections of black and white grids centering on the sphere and creating a hologram-like effect.

Karen Rose’s collective of dancers presented “Tree Satyagrapha,” taking inspiration from the natural landscape of Victoria Park. The dancers performed linear sequences of rising and falling actions to the haunting music of a live cellist. The performance ebbed and flowed with dancers breaking their sequences for moments of abrupt intensity, inciting feelings of anguish in their audience.

When asked about how Regina’s festival compares to others of its kind, Harazny was quick to praise the festival’s current site.

“We have a great space downtown, where the City Square Plaza is and Victoria Park right beside it so I see the downtown as a great location. In other cities, [the festival] kind of takes over the city and there’ll be galleries and museums open all night in different neighbourhoods, but in Regina we had to start off small at first so we kept it concentrated just in the downtown. Hopefully we can expand it to more areas as we grow as a festival.”

Even in only one year, Nuit Blanche Regina has found ways to expand and reach a wider audience.

“The first year, we had all local artists, and now in our second year we actually brought in an artist from Brazil – our first international artist. We were able to do that by partnering with Nuit Blanche Saskatoon and sharing that artist.”

The festival has also provided contributions to other local events during the year. Two projectionists from the first Nuit Blanche Regina in 2018 were able to showcase their art, as well as two artists who provided installations for the Cathedral Village Arts Festival in May

While the festival is still young, Harazny has plans to increase the scope of Nuit Blanche Regina’s reach.

“I would like to work more with businesses downtown – to partner with them and have them as venues for artists. Places like restaurants, coffee shops, music venues . . . I think we could really work together and that would make the event grow and reach more people.” Harazny points to Nuit Blanche Winnipeg as an example.

“Winnipeg has a really successful Nuit Blanche and I’ve been talking to the organizer there and she said for the business, like the coffee shops in the neighbourhoods where they have the festival, it’s their biggest night of the whole year because there are so many people out.

“It’s really meant to be an accessible festival so everything is free, it’s in an accessible location and so people can get to it by public transit if they need to.”

With an added note of excitement, Harazny mentions the growing interest in not only Nuit Blanche, but in a general increase of art in Regina.

“I keep getting approached by other event organizers. So I think that this is a really interesting thing because it sounds like there are a lot of other festivals that want to have artists and I think we can kind of provide a link between artists and event organizers that both parties can benefit from.”

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