By Shannon Boklaschuk
Numerous alumni from the College of Arts and Science at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) will showcase their work this weekend at Nuit Blanche Saskatoon, an annual nighttime festival that celebrates arts and culture.
The sixth annual festival will be held on Saturday, Sept. 28, from 7 pm to 1 am throughout Saskatoon’s Broadway, downtown and River Landing areas. It will feature 21 artistic installations incorporating light, sound, images, human movement and more.
Nuit Blanche Saskatoon is curated by local studio owner and USask alumnus Michael Peterson (BFA’09, BSc’10).
“As our festival grows, we continue to prioritize our community partnerships,” said Peterson, who earned degrees in printmaking and mathematics at USask.
“Key among these for 2019 are our partnership with the University of Saskatchewan—which has led to the development of Nuit Blanche Eve at USask—and our partnership with PAVED Arts and the Broadway Theatre, which is bringing a screening of Pilgrims of the Wild at The Refinery, featuring (Michael Farnan’s) collaborative work with internationally renowned artists Lori Blondeau and Adrian Stimson.”
USask alumnus Michael Farnan (MFA’12) is a multidisciplinary artist currently based in Victoria Harbour, Ont. Informed by discourses of reconciliation and decolonization, Farnan’s work employs settler-based interventionist strategies aimed at challenging Canada’s colonial legacies and representational practices that continue to privilege settler history.
For Nuit Blanche Saskatoon, the Pilgrims of the Wild screening and Once Were Pilgrims performance will feature Farnan’s collaborative work with internationally renowned artists and USask alumni Lori Blondeau (MFA’03) and Adrian Stimson (MFA’06). The three collaborators have developed a provocative exchange that takes on the appearance of a panel discussion, said Peterson.
Another USask alumnus who will take part in Nuit Blanche Saskatoon this year is Joseph Anderson (MFA’09). It’s Anderson’s first time showcasing his work at the annual festival, and he’s excited about the opportunity.
“I’ve always been so impressed with the work in the past and happy to be included,” he said.
Using second-hand bed sheets and linens, Anderson has sewn together large-scale fabric sculptures in the shape of ghosts that will hang from light poles. He said his project “is both a stereotypical joke about playing dress up and costumes, and also a way to make a connection to the human body.”
“Our bedding has a very intimate relationship to our bodies and I hope my ghosts will communicate that,” he said.
The idea for Anderson’s fabric ghosts was sparked by a solo exhibition of paintings he had a few years ago. Those paintings were inspired by Victorian-era ghost stories and alluded specifically to Henry James’ horror novella The Turn of the Screw.
“The book is full of mystery and strange children and ghostly beings, and I wanted to capture that literary tension in my watercolour paintings,” said Anderson, who currently works on the USask campus as the office coordinator in the Department of Art and Art History.
“I’ve also been drawing a lot of ghosts lately, so creating them in three dimensions seemed like a natural progression. Because this will be happening at night, I wanted to create something supernatural that would maybe only be visible in the dark. Nuit Blanche is pretty close to Halloween, but I didn't want my ghosts to look like bad decorations. Instead, I tried to make my ghosts more silly than scary. Originally, they were going to be completely blank and white, but I’ve added colourful facial features—which I think makes them more amusing.
“I hope viewers will find the work funny and maybe a little creepy,” he added. “I’d like people to imagine the absurdity of their nighttime fears and maybe also think about how the bed sheets had been used and discarded in people’s homes before I purchased them. Hopefully, the ghosts will appear to hover off of the ground and maybe move and float a bit in the wind. I think they’ll also be good selfie partners.”
Chris Morin, who earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political studies at USask in 2007, will be featured at Nuit Blanche Saskatoon for the third year as a participating artist. Morin is one of two co-curators who make up Scummy Magic, which he describes as “a mobile sticker machine in the form of a travelling exhibit that is part retro vending-machine nostalgia and part affordable adhesiveness.”
“Dispensing stickers designed by local artists, handmade zines, limited-edition screen prints, DIY life advice and whimsy, Scummy Magic is a design collusion that exists in the most unexpected of spaces where weirdo pop-culture visuals meet street art,” he said.
“Our installation has a few different surprises and collaborations this year, including some tiny works from a poet and a dramatist. Expect real magic.”
While Morin always feels stress and anxiety leading up to Nuit Blanche Saskatoon, he finds that it quickly melts away once the event gets started. He said it's “amazing” to see so much support for an event that relies on participants’ willingness to go on a nighttime adventure in the city.
“In that sense, Nuit Blanche definitely has a community-driven feel to it all—an event where you can showcase work and be a participant as well as an artist,” said Morin.
“Nuit Blanche explores the depths of some of Saskatoon’s great talents in surprising and unexpected ways. Often, it’s not just about the artwork, the spectacle or the performances that are on view, but the context in which they are juxtaposed with the city itself. It’s about bridging the connection of how we view art but also our own city and the endless potential for whimsy and delight to reside in our own backyards.”