Reimagining Nuit Blanche

A month-long opportunity to explore and celebrate contemporary art

See Hear Speak by Paul Robles in Old Market Square

“It is an oddity calling for attention, conjuring a magnetic contradiction that highlights and denies the human experience of contact, folly and closeness,” Robles’ artist statement for See Hear Speak reads. “The playful shapes are layered with monkeys and meaning to suggest team bonding exercises, sporty cheer(leaders), religious divination and even fraternity hazing. Echoing society’s current unease, the title invokes the proverb of the Three Wise Monkeys and how the threat of isolation and despair can lead to compulsive diversion.”

Callie Lugosi

Ashley Christenson’s Illuminate the Night installation, a quiet place, at Théâtre Cercle Molière

The installation consists of three large handmade clouds and a moon, suspended from the ceiling and illuminated from the inside.

Callie Lugosi

Setting up: Belgian-Métis artist Charlene Van Buekenhout installing her large-scale lantern beadwork piece, Beading on the Land, at Théâtre Cercle Molière. Van Buekenhout has historically worked in theatre. It was at a puppet-making intensive in Massachusetts that inspired her to create this piece.

Callie Lugosi

Joshua Banman’s interactive augmented-reality video installation Luv Lite can be seen at the Exchange District BIZ office. The installation is part of the Illuminate the Night series. Onlookers step into a miniature arena of CRT televisions and see themselves reflected on a dozen glowing screens.

“I hope to evoke a sense of nostalgia for a technology that is familiar but no longer available to consumers,” Banman says in his artist statement.

“As well, the expectations for this style of screen is not to have interactive elements, so by layering in augmented-reality interaction, I hope to surprise and delight the audience. The staging of Luv Lite is also designed to maximize selfie-taking from audience members. The proposed augmented reality mask is light beams emitting from the users’ eyes and hands – evoking a narrative that the light we need to see comes from within.”

Callie Lugosi

Team Toxic’s PanoptiBot: Defacement in the Surveillance Age on display at Little Brown Jug Brewing Co.

The piece is comprised of “a series of giant robotic faces on freestanding walls made of lights, monitors, mirrors, wires and tubes.”

“It’s our hope to use the systems of surveillance capitalism to make people contemplate the
hazards of engaging with it.”

Callie Lugosi

Drag queen Bambi Rey performing for the crowd at Little Brown Jug Brewing Co. on Sept. 25

Callie Lugosi

Van Buekenhout’s Beading on the Land at Théâtre Cercle Molière

“Public art is a nice reminder for people who maybe don’t think about art very often, that it can touch someone and that it’s all around, all the time,” she says.

Callie Lugosi

Jennifer Cheslock, general manager of Culture Days Manitoba and Nuit Blanche Winnipeg programmer

Nuit Blanche Winnipeg is one of the city’s most anticipated fall events, typically spanning across the core urban area with multitudes of art installations running late into the night.

“The audience participation and the energy that comes from people being out and about checking out all the art projects is part of what really makes Nuit Blanche something special,” Jennifer Cheslock, general manager of Culture Days Manitoba and producer of Nuit Blanche Winnipeg, says.

“One of the jewels of Winnipeg is a thriving arts and performing-arts scene. It’s one thing that draws people here.”

This year, Culture Days is reducing the size of the event but taking a more accessible approach.

“We’re expanding from just a single evening event that most people would probably be familiar with, the typical Saturday night, to a month of exploration that audiences can visit at any point,” Cheslock says.

Filmmaker Lasha Mowchun at a screening of her short film Scopophobia.

Mowchun says Nuit Blanche is the ideal setting for her work to be seen, due to her valuing a diverse audience. “I like that a general public comes out and not a specific, niche art crowd. I wanted to show it to regular people,” she says. “I believe that regular people understand art. I don’t like the idea that art is only for special people. It should be accessible. Anyone can understand it.”

“We’re very happy to be able to provide an opportunity ... that artists can share what they’re working on with audiences, and audiences can have that great experience of being able to connect with art, connect with one another and be out and about in the community again,” Cheslock says.

While artists, galleries, curators and businesses can create and host their own projects around the city as part of Nuit Blanche, Culture Days Manitoba also hosts a program called Illuminate the Night, selecting projects that “will enhance the audience experience.”

Cheslock says the nine Illuminate the Night projects are all different from one another, exploring the theme of illumination through various media, including sculpture, video projection and poetry.

These projects will be displayed in windows and visible at all times for the duration of the month. Cheslock believes this will make the projects more accessible, eliminating safety concerns with crowds and indoor spaces.

The decision to adapt Nuit Blanche into a longer format was made in the late spring and early summer.

Leandra Brandson’s multi-channel video installation Look Up, Look Down can be seen from the windows of Travel Manitoba’s headquarters at Johnston Terminal at The Forks. The piece showcases the varied landscapes of Manitoba.

“We were looking for a way to be able to still share the fun, exciting experience,” Cheslock says. “But to do so on just one night comes with so many potential pitfalls, especially as public-health regulations are potentially changing into the fall and as people are concerned about making sure that their own health is a priority.”

Cheslock says the artists and organizations involved are excited about the new format. “It gives them a better way to connect with audiences.”

This year, the Culture Days theme for Nuit Blanche is RE:IMAGINE.

“The idea behind that was reimagining how arts and culture could play a role in people’s lives and helping them move beyond the challenging time that everybody’s been going through in this past year and a half,” Cheslock says.

“I think we’re kind of imagining how life could be different than it was in the past ... and how each of us can contribute to making life a little bit better. So I think ‘reimagine’ as a theme offers an opportunity for people to consider the changes that we want to see in the future of arts and culture.”

A view from The Forks Harbour of Waterline, a temporary video installation created by hannah_g and choreographed by Rachel Cooper. The video on display features two dancers seemingly emerging from the water to then dance on its surface.

Cheslock says the mandate for Culture Days is to give Manitobans the opportunity to engage with arts and culture, noting that admission fees are a barrier for many. Nuit Blanche “creates a space where people don’t have to worry about those kinds of financial barriers.”

“Offering arts and culture events and activities for free is a great way to get people interested and engaged with the new art forms that they might not have learned about otherwise. So, again, taking away that barrier of cost helps people to try new things out, discover things that they might really enjoy and learn about their own passions,” Cheslock says.

For Nuit Blanche 2020, Culture Days offered an equal split of programming online and in person. This year, most events are scheduled for in person, with only 20 per cent online. Cheslock says they haven’t decided what they’ll do for 2022.

“It’s been tough to try to adjust things from the way that they used to be. But at the same time, we’re looking to find what works for everybody. And if that means a change, let’s go for it,” Cheslock says. “I think it’s important to, you know, take the positives where we can. I mean, we don’t know what the future holds.”

Nuit Blanche takes place from Sept. 24 to Oct. 24, coinciding with Culture Days Manitoba. Find their pocket guide at

Published in Volume 76, Number 4 of The Uniter (October 1, 2021)

Related Reads