A Stranger Things installation, a hot-air balloon and five other must-see spectacles at Nuit Blanche 2017

A Stranger Things installation, a hot-air balloon and five other must-see spectacles at Nuit Blanche 2017

This weekend, the 2017 edition of Nuit Blanche, Toronto’s all-night art party, arrives with less corporate financial backing but, for the first time, a singular theme: Many Possible Futures. More than 350 artists will fill downtown with 85 forward-looking installations on Saturday night. Here, five you can’t miss.

A trip to the Upside Down

Spadina court house rotunda
Any art installation that requires its viewers to don a hazmat suit upon entry has us interested. Netflix’s Red Forest is an immersive world inspired by the creepy Upside Down realm from the sci-fi series Stranger Things. Explorers will enter woodsy portals along University Avenue and Osgoode Lane and walk through the mystical foliage and Twilight Drive-In of Riverdale, Stranger Things’s bike-growing trees and an Orc tree conception pulled from the Netflix film Bright. Sure, it’s art as promotional tool, but dang, it sounds cool.

A chance to survey the scene from a hot-air balloon

Nathan Phillips Square
Floating nearly 45 feet above the pavement, Hendrick’s Gin’s L.E.V.I.T.A.T.R.E. (if you really need to know: Levitating Elevating Voluminous Illuminating Tantalizing Amazingly Towering Roaming Eye) requires a Willy Wonka–esque golden ticket to ride, which you can try to snag online beforehand. A lucky few will get a unique bird’s-eye perspective of Nuit Blanche, flying high in a giant, cucumber-themed hot-air balloon.

A cacophonous carpool karaoke session

Queen’s Park
A gaggle of cars tricked-out with top-of-the-line, bass-heavy sound systems will be parked in front of the Ontario parliament building with the volume cranked to 11. The soundtrack: Automobile, an abstract composition by artist Joseph Namy that you’ll feel in your chest. The primal throb of sound will hit near-illegal decibel levels, allowing guests to lose themselves in an impromptu street dance party.

A max-security prison cell

Nathan Phillips Square
Local artist Tings Chak’s Monument to (Im)mobilization is a full-scale recreation of a maximum-security prison cell in the middle of Nathan Phillips Square. Claustrophobic and filled with artifacts from actual cells, the installation mimics the space in which undocumented migrants and refugees conducted a hunger strike in 2013 in two Ontario pirsons, demanding the eradication of immigration detention.

A sonic tour of Toronto

Nathan Phillips Square
Curator Nato Thompson’s Monument to the Century of Revolutions will fill 21 shipping containers with as many artistic projects. One highlight: local electronic duo LAL explore Toronto’s migrant and Indigenous history with a 10-minute soundscape that samples sounds and voices from Chinatown. Oakwood, Korea Town, Little Italy and beyond.

A 15-foot storytelling puppet

Albert and James Streets
The oral tradition of North Bay’s Nippissing First Nation is embodied in Serpent People, a collection of stories about the human condition. Aanmitaagzi Company artist Perry Mcleod-Shabogesic uses sculptures and a 15-foot puppet to stage a series of pop-up plays that examine humans’ relationship to consumption, and how what we consume takes us away from who we are.

Red…

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An installation being built in real time

Yonge-Dundas Square
Toronto graffiti artist Kwest (born Brian Leitch) creates sculptures out of sneakers, organic art installations out of wood and glass and futuristic Ping-Pong tables for Drake. In this downtown installation, he’ll gather recycled garments and textiles from H&M—symbols of the discarded—and transform them into a streamlined work of art, providing commentary on how we live and treat the planet.