BY: Erin Hershberg and Jesse Skinner

Picture this: Right-leaning suits walk through the night aghast, apprehended by the beauty of light while lefty hipsters seem to be doing the same thing (except they have mustaches). It's not Christmas. No one's pretending to like one another but there is a mysterious kinship in the city that unites left and right. This is Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, the annual indoor/outdoor, all night, art-filled dalliance where neither entrepreneur nor pottery maker knows what the hell he's looking at but what he does know is that it's f***'n cool.

Nuit Blanche hovers beyond (or beneath) human understanding ... And if it doesn't, if you think you get what's going on at every turn, here's a lesson in disillusionment: Stay up later and you'll find you don't.   

AGO_other_art_contest_thumb.pngTitle: The Other Painting Competition
Artist: Paul Butler - Winnipeg, Canada
Location: Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St. W., Toronto

From Toronto-based, Winnipeg-born artist, Paul Butler, comes  The Other Painting Competition — kind of like the American Idol of the art world. But not. Putting emerging artists on display as they complete a series of still-life and live model painting challenges designed by six prominent Canadian artists, Butler, the clever new AGO artist in residence, ups this year's post-modern ante. Turning the privacy of the art studio on its head, the meta installation is a kind of disorienting labyrinth where creators both create while — by virtue of our presence — become part of their own creation. Selected by audience vote, the winner of the 12 hour painting challenge will win the grand prize of a solo exhibition at The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art's Media/Retail Space. -E.H

PUGEN_NeuspielPugen_tennis1_300dpi_7x5_thumb.pngTitle: The Tie-break
Artists: Tibi Tibi Neuspiel - Ottawa, Canada, Geoffrey Pugen - Toronto, Canada
Location: Commerce Court, North Plaza 25 King Street West

From miming to the making of rice, the world of performance art is not only a red flag when choosing a mate, it's also, er, inclusionary. This year The Tie-break falls under said immense category and even to some extent involves mime. But let not the genre be a deterrent to your spectatorship, the Canadian duo behind this piece are actually up to something interesting here. The Tie-break is a performative re-enactment of the legendary fourth set tie-break from the 1980 Wimbledon Gentlemen's Singles Finals between Björn Borg and John McEnroe. Bearing a striking resemblance to the ubiquitous pros, the artists will attempt to recreate each stroke, each groan, each wipe of the brow and bounce of the ball as faithfully as possible with respect to the original event.  They may not be dateable but they should put on a good show. -E.H

PURDY_Purdy_logs_in_water_300dpi_7x5_thumb.pngTitle: L'écho-l'eau
Artist: Richard Purdy - Ottawa, Canada
Location: MaRS, 101 College Street

For most of us Canadians, the only access we have to 19th century logging culture is via the National Film Board's iconic vignette. While there is something very comforting about picturing a major part of our national history as a whimsical cartoon, Richard Purdy's L'écho-l'eau makes the archaic logging scene — the self-serving economical force that polluted our rivers — slightly more three-dimensional. Flooding 28,000 square feet of exhibition space with one centimetre of water, Purdy invites patrons to "burl through [not-so] white water" themselves. Walk through vast halls of muddy waters and see yourself reflected in a Lacanian visual game of confounding proportions. It's all your fault. Kidding. (Sort of.) - E.H

Artists: Eduardo Recife, Lorenzo Petrantoni, Janice Kun, Eric Chan, Bradley Grosh, Christian Toth, Hugh Elliot, Alex Kurina, Zena Holloway

Location: Scotia Bank Plaza, Adelaide Street between Bay Street & Yonge Street

Although the word interactive gets tossed about the art world like stale croutons in a soggy salad, FLUXe actually has a shot at not being banal. (That's something.) At the risk of bald-faced humiliation, patrons of the exhibit will be given a Blackberry Playbook (no, not forever) upon which they are invited to display whatever might be happening in their minds. From happy faces to stick men to "fuck you apple" in Helvetica to the next Mona Lisa, all will appear in real time (uh-huh, just like Twitter) upon the 100-foot x 33-foot LED screen suspended on the side of Scotia Plaza. Warning: Artsy hubris is a likely scenario. -E.H

IRVING_Irving_HeartMachine_300dpi_6x4_thumb.jpgTitle: The Heart Machine
Artists: Christine Irving - Toronto, Canada, Interactive Art, Toronto Canada
Location: Parking Lot, 640 Bay Street (Between Elm Street and Edward Street)

Let's face it: we're not all thieves by nature but we are all pyros. Prometheus happened to be both. But no matter ... Check out The Heart Machine — an interactive (there's that word again) machine that is fuelled by its participants. Easier than rubbing two sticks together and a whole lot cooler, the piece ignites by way of its four "arteries" which protrude from a large central artery each connected to sensors that when touched, shoot flames that reach up to 25 feet into the air from 16-foot tall columns. Fire's awesome. -E.H

Title: The Feast of TrimalchioFeast.jpg
Artists: AES+F (Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovitch, Evgeny Svyatsky and Vladimir Fridkes)
Queen's Park, northeast corner

The Feast of Trimalchio is the latest project by AES+F, a quartet of Russians who have worked on the cutting edge of visual art since 1987, combining modern video and computer production with classical inspirations. This installation references the 1st-century Latin work Satyricon, a precursor to what we now call the “novel," specifically its “Trimalchio’s dinner” passage; the satire of wealth and excess is re-imagined through over 70,000 still photographs, including (or implicating) 21st-century subjects of varying class and racial background – some of whom might have been in The Village People. Was there a chef in The Village People? Answers on a postcard. - J.S.

Title: Face Music FaceMusic.jpg
Artist: Ken Rinaldo
Location: Yonge and Dundas Square

If you’ve ever wondered what your face sounds like, I hate you. I mean, come on. Besides, Ken Rinaldo has already put your stoned nonsense question into practice: his Face Music project combines digital profile scanning with functional robotics, allowing camera-mounted figures to digitally process your appearance and translate it into music. Over the course of the night the music will evolve and incorporate its different subjects. It’s all the fun of a Country Bear Jamboree as re-imagined by soulless automatons. Considering how many people will pass by before “face music” is finished being written, we’re guessing the robot orchestra will just give up and sound like this. - J.S.

Title: City Mouse CityMouse.jpg
Artist: Julia Hepburn
Scotia Plaza, Interior, Main Floor, 40 King Street West

Animals in the Greater Toronto Area have adapted to the pressures of pollution, noise, and a steady diet of discarded street meat and cigarette butts. Julia Hepburn has interpreted our influence on the poor raccoon in a way that is both harrowing and hilarious; her City Mouse diorama project features hollowed-out animal figures with smaller, more professional counterparts inside. Cute! Oh wait, what’s the opposite of cute? Disturbing. That’s what I meant. Nuit Blanche claims City Mouse is “appropriate for all ages” but ... wait, why are you bringing your kids to Nuit Blanche anyway? Do you want them to get trampled? - J.S.

Title: The Dogs and Boats and Airplanes ChoirDogsAndBoats.jpg
Artist: Bill Burns
Location:  Atrium on Bay (595 Bay Street)

Speaking of kids, here's an interesting project made by kids for kids ... kids who like conceptual sound installations involving repetition and contrapuntal theory. For The Dogs and Boats and Airplanes Choir Bill Burns and choir director
Alan Gasser instructed a group of pre-teen Torontonians to simulate the sounds of dogs, boats, and airplanes, and the results will be mixed and looped into a "captivating narrative." It will either be incredibly fun or incredibly annoying, or maybe both at once. - J.S.

Title: McLuhan's Massage Parlour MassageParlour.jpg
Artist: Luc Courchesne
Location: Toronto Ballroom, Metropolitan Hotel Toronto (108 Chestnut Street)

You might find the idea of deceased media theorist Marshall McLuhan giving you a rubdown discomforting (I hope) but thankfully Luc Courchesne’s installation McLuhan’s Massage Parlour is not to be taken literally. So how should it be taken? That’s hard to say – Nuit Blanche press releases have a way of exhaustively describing things without coming close to explaining what they actually are, suffice to say, it is in their words “a real-time virtual media garden.” It is clear that Courchesne will bring McLuhan's important yet eternally misunderstood ideas to life, but just how exactly he will do so remains to be seen. - J.S.

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