Ono's Imagine Peace project joins Toronto's Nuit Blanche

Yoko Ono's Imagine Peace project is coming to Toronto this fall as part of Nuit Blanche, the annual all-night festival of contemporary art.

All-night event will feature zombie extras, and oil rig and buffalo displays

Yoko Ono's Imagine Peace project is coming to Toronto this fall as part of Nuit Blanche, the annual all-night festival of contemporary art.

Buffalos in Combat, by Hamra Abbas of Islamabad, will be life-sized sculptures of two of the animals fighting. ((City of Toronto))

It was one of more than  30 curated art projects announced Wednesday for this year's event, to run from sunset Saturday, Oct. 4, to sunrise Sunday, Oct. 5.

The Toronto version of the festival is now three years old, and the planning for 2008 includes both more international involvement and larger installations geared to handling the up to one million people expected to attend.

On Wednesday, four curators — Dave Dyment of Toronto, Gordon Hatt of Kitchener, Ont., Wayne Baerwaldt of Calgary and Haema Sivanesan of Sydney, Australia — unveiled some of the art projects to be shown around Toronto the night of Oct. 4.

Ono's Imagine Peace project involves a Wish Tree, based on the Japanese tradition of tying wishes to the branches of a tree.

Thousands of Nuit Blanche visitors will tie their wishes for the world on trees near Lamport Stadium. After the festival, the wishes will be gathered by the artist and stored at the Imagine Peace tower in Iceland.

Ono has been holding Imagine Peace events, which build on the sentiments of the late Beatle John Lennon's song Imagine, around the world for almost a decade, but this is a first for Toronto.

"She's always interested in creating the Imagine Peace art event, but usually the project is self-funded," said Dyment, who has curated Ono's work in the past.

"She was excited about coming to event like this with thousands of people and having financial support to carry out the project."

Stereoscope by Project Blinkenlights of Berlin will use lights to create images on the face of Toronto City Hall.

The event will also involve a large billboard saying "Imagine Peace" that could be erected to face the Gardiner Expressway. About 40,000 buttons with the slogan will be given to Nuit Blanche participants.

Ono, who lives in New York, is among dozens of international artists taking part in the festival. Others are coming from Japan, Sweden, Spain, Germany and India.

Sivanesan plans to bring in several international artists who will reflect on the theme of "strange destinations." 

Among them:

  • Hamra Abbas, of Islamabad, who will create Buffalos in Combat, two life-sized sculptures of the animals fighting, a reflection on violence in the contemporary world.
  • Shilpa Gupta, of Mumbai, India, whose video installation of figures dressed in camouflage is a reflection of global tension.
  • Ruark Lewis, of Sydney, who will create Euphemisms for the Intimate Enemy, a huge installation of 450 oil drums that will include sound and text.

Michel de Broin, a Montreal artist who created a pedal car whose driver was arrested by Toronto police, is creating a new installation that plays with public perceptions for Nuit Blanche.

He will create a work called Overflow, a waterfall flowing from a third-storey window, creating a pool on the street that will then be sucked up and recirculated.

Zombies downtown

Zombies in Condoland by Jillian McDonald of New York will involve actors and art patrons playing the part of zombies in a downtown building. ((City of Toronto))
And there will be extras playing zombies in College Park, taking part in a series of film shoots on the streets and public spaces. A performance art installation by Jillian McDonald of New York will encourage art patrons to come dressed for a zombie part.

Among the other art projects:

  • A 25-metre garden under a drop ceiling in a back alley next to Massey Hall created by Sebastient Guiguere, Nicholas Laverdiere and Jasmin Bilodeau of Quebec City.
  • An interactive light installation in the windows of city hall created by Berlin-based group Project Blinkenlights.
  • A sound installation by Luis Jacob of Toronto that will take over Maple Leaf Gardens.
  • A performance piece called Don Coyote, about a man who wants to be a cowboy troubador, to be performed in St. James Anglican Church by Matt Masters & Terrance Houle of Calgary.
  • Rita McKeough of Calgary will erect oil rigs all over a downtown parking lot.

Hundreds of thousands attend

Last year's Toronto Nuit Blanche, based on a festival first held in Paris in 2002, attracted 800,000 visitors.

The event involves most of Toronto's art institutions, with festival-goers wandering from one art installation to another around the city. More than 100 art projects will be on display.

"This excellent event attracted huge crowds by making contemporary art accessible to everyone," Ontario Culture Minister Aileen Carroll said.

She has awarded $500,000 through the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund for the event managed by the City of Toronto.