Nuit Blanche: recap

Wow! What an amazing weekend in Toronto. On Saturday September 29th, my interactive media installation for Nuit Blanche 2012 went live at sunset. 

What I was hoping for was a (relatively) seamless setup and a healthy interest from passers-by. What I got was more than I could have ever imagined.

local yogis show off some bendy skills

local yogis show off some bendy skills

Things kicked off with talented local yogis demonstrating some rad moves at the Queen Street location. The Cumberland Street location had a large group of supporters who immediately jumped in on the action when the DJ started to spin. Right from the start, the concept of the project was well-received. Stepping into the window display and seeing the moving outline of someone else created surprise and delight; people weren't just smiling, they were beaming!  They loved the idea of dancing, doing yoga and interacting with strangers in real time across a city.

a high five between two individuals at two separate locations

a high five between two individuals at two separate locations

As time wore on, the crowds got bigger and bigger. At one point, there was a line-up to get in front of the screen! I think my twelve-year-old self died with jealousy when a MuchMusic VJ and her camera crew passed by and got in on the action.

Hundreds of spectators stopped to check out the installation at the Queen St location. Photo: Jacqueline Valentine

Hundreds of spectators stopped to check out the installation at the Queen St location. Photo: Jacqueline Valentine

The response from the crowd was incredible. People were entranced by the images they saw before them, and an impressive spirit of community grew as groups of people gathered to dance in front of the screen. The music played a key role here; it drew crowds and interest, and gave people beats to move to. This was critical because dancing and movement caused such a dynamic effect on the screens.

 

People danced like their lives depended on it. Photo: Jacqueline Valentine

People danced like their lives depended on it. Photo: Jacqueline Valentine

One aspect of the project that I had not anticipated was the interest and curiosity created by the backdrop screen. It was a logistically necessary component, but one I had considered secondary to the project. The lights created dancing silhouettes on the backdrop that essentially drew more crowds and intrigue than that of the installation itself. 

Some participants used this shadow-play element as the focal point for their own interaction experience and paid almost no attention to the LED screen. They seemed to be dancing for the sole purpose of creating interesting silhouettes for the crowd.

Silhouettes created unexpected results and additional interest. Photo: Jacqueline Valentine

Silhouettes created unexpected results and additional interest. Photo: Jacqueline Valentine

Others, entranced by the images they saw on the LED screen before them, danced furiously and unknowingly generated spectacular silhouettes that drew a crowd on the street behind them. Some seemed oblivious to anything outside the space between the backdrop and the store window. It was as if the screen provided them a false sense of privacy and anonymity where they could dance as if no one was watching. Ironically, hundreds of people between two locations were observing their movements. It was an interesting phenomenon that I had not expected, and I'm so glad it happened.

The installation was scheduled to come down between midnight and 1:00 am, but demand from the crowd kept the party going until around 2:30 am.  

Thank you Toronto for the amazing Nuit Blanche experience! I feel incredibly grateful to everyone who attended and danced their heart out. 

Cameron Roden filmed the event, and is putting together an awesome video that I'll be sharing soon.  I will be adding a Nuit Blanche project page to my portfolio shortly, so check back soon. 

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Update, October 6: The video is complete! A huge thank you to Cameron for capturing the evening so perfectly.