Breaking Ground

This year’s theme, Breaking Ground, explores ideas about the natural world and being on the vanguard of change and innovation. Traditionally defined as the preparation for building or planting, Breaking Ground invites Nuit Blanche artists to create thought-provoking artworks that analyze the impacts of climate change, how the construction and development of Toronto’s urban landscapes impacts communities and our collective responsibilities around land and stewardship.

Meet the curators and learn about their exhibitions

Lillian O’Brien Davis (she/her) is a curator and writer based in Toronto. She has curated independent projects at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, the Susan Hobbs Gallery, the School of Art Gallery at the University of Manitoba and others. Until recently, Lillian was the Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs at Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography. This fall, she will join the Art Gallery of York University as their new Curator of Collections and Contemporary Art Engagement.

Exhibition: Shoaling

Bordered by Lake Ontario to the south, Humber River to the east and Etobicoke Creek to the west, South Etobicoke is a site where land and water are near to each other. Communities are fed through relationships of reciprocity, looking beyond ourselves – sometimes all the way into the universe. Shoaling is a multivocal exhibition focusing on connections between the land and the water, linking threads of memory, climate, race and labour. Featuring local, national and international artists, this exhibition responds to the neighborhood’s proximity to water and states of transition and growth.

As a naturally submerged landform consisting of sand or other loose materials that rises from a bed of water to near the surface, the shoal functions as a metaphor for South Etobicoke – a gathering space, linking the land with what lies beyond us. Using performance, video, sculpture and various forms of technology, artists address the complex relationships between human life and plant ecologies, reflecting on interspecies approaches to sustainability.

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Kari Cwynar (she/her) is an independent curator and writer based between Toronto and Montreal. She has held curatorial research positions at the National Gallery of Canada, the Banff Centre for the Arts and the Art Gallery of Ontario. She was the inaugural curator of Evergreen’s public art program in Toronto’s Don River Valley.

Exhibition: Disturbed Landscape

Twelve hours spent digging up the buried rivers of Toronto with a spoon – a small gesture to undo centuries of development. A massive void unearthed in front of City Hall, revealing the detritus of urban collectivity and protest. Birdsong heard throughout a Bay Street lobby, suggesting a past soundscape driven out by urban noise. A magic lamp that answers colonial yearning.

In this exhibition, nine artists intervene in Toronto’s financial district, enacting a series of reversals and disruptions in the built environment, uncovering the land beneath the corporate headquarters, bank plazas, governmental buildings and the overlooked parking lots of city’s commercial centre. In an area of the city where the land has been obscured, regulated and de-prioritized, the artists unearth the systems that shape Toronto as a city and highlight the ever-present relationship between land, economy and power in urban environments.

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Noa Bronstein (she/her) is a curator and writer based in Toronto. Noa was the Executive Director of Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, Executive Director of Gallery TPW and the inaugural Senior Curator at the Small Arms Inspection Building, and is currently the Assistant Director of the Art Museum at the University of Toronto. Her practice is often focused on the social production of space and thinking through how artists disrupt and subvert systems.

Exhibition: In the Aggregate

Teasing a double meaning of the whole and the geological elements used to produce concrete – the raw material of cityscapes – this curatorial theme considers how a group of things interacting with one another is different or greater than in their separation. Referencing ideas of togetherness, friendship, allyship and collectivity and pointing to Scarborough’s unique urban topographies and the many communities that call Scarborough home, public space is transformed here through assemblages and shared experiences whose cumulative effects are greater than the sum of their parts. Gathering together various forms, narratives and histories suggests that meaning and connection is located in the aggregate – a gesture of profound optimism in the possibilities of communal and shared space-making and city-building.

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