Exploring McLuhan’s message at Nuit Blanche, Toronto

Wednesday, 05 October 2011 – By Jed de los Reyes, Youth Speak News 

Participants from Faith Connections’ Hike and Prayer at Nuit Blanche gather Oct. 1. From left to right: Megan Robinson-Yu, Stephanie Allen, Amanda Roughton, Chelsea Grant, Petrina Vrazinis, Jason Franco and YSN writer Jed de los Reyes.

Participants from Faith Connections’ Hike and Prayer at Nuit Blanche gather Oct. 1. From left to right: Megan Robinson-Yu, Stephanie Allen, Amanda Roughton, Chelsea Grant, Petrina Vrazinis, Jason Franco and YSN writer Jed de los Reyes.

TORONTO – About 25 young adults took to the streets during Nuit Blanche, Toronto’s yearly all-night art festival, to explore the spiritual connections behind the exhibits. 

The group gathered as part of Hike and Prayer, organized by Faith Connections, a ministry for young adults run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto.

“It was an opportunity for young adults to meet each other, to reflect on the spiritual side of art and to participate in the city of Toronto,” said program director Vanessa Nicholas-Schmidt.

This year, Zone B’s theme of “The Future of the Present” was inspired by Marshall McLuhan, the Catholic scholar who realized and encouraged the possibilities media provides for communication. This was represented through the exhibits, which encouraged physical and psychological participation from the viewer to understand the intimate and personal messages they send.

The first exhibit of the hike, Ascension, was a massive video projection of a cathedral’s hallways installed within the Metropolitan United Church. Though it seems simple, the exhibit explored the concept of “infinity”; the video made participants feel as though they were walking through an endless hall — though they were standing still — and the electric music combined with the room’s acoustics greatly emphasized the church’s architecture and majesty.  

The hike continued at Nathan Phillips Square, which contained two main exhibits. Flightpath Toronto was made up of two rideable zip lines stretched through the skies, representing a future with new means of airborne transportation, and opening our minds to exciting new possibilities where the ordinary is made extraordinary. Through the Gorilla Glass was a favourite of the group; a sculpture of mechanical arms that waved according to the way participants push and pull its endpoints, similar to our own interactions with the world. 

“You push it down and you see how your action creates a reaction through the rest of it,” said participant Petrina Vrazinis. 

McLuhan’s Massage Parlour consisted of four screens surrounding the viewer, showing various pages, pictures and quotes from McLuhan’s book The Medium is the Massage.  

Stephanie Allen, became an active participant as she used the exhibit’s remote to zoom, push through and rotate the book’s many messages.  

“You could go inside, outside and change your perspective,” she said.

Next was Shannon’s Fireflies, a grid of red, blue and green light nodes in a cube frame containing sensors that shone brighter or dimmer in response to people talking and whispering. At one point, everyone nearby shouted as one to trigger all the lights at once. By using whisper stations set up in the labyrinth, two people could talk to each other and see their words create light and be distorted as they passed through the air. The installation was meant to reveal visually how meaning gets distorted when people communicate. 

Not much time was spent at The Heart Machine due to the large crowd, but from what was visible, visitors acted as the arteries and blood by touching certain sensors to unleash exciting 25-foot flames; an action symbolizing a citizen’s responsibility to their city.  

The last exhibit was Cloister; a multimedia presentation celebrating the 156 years of St. Joseph’s College School, made more interesting by the appearance by one of its sisters.

As with all art, many questions were raised following each viewing. When we interact with the world, how does it respond? What are the new possibilities available to the world that could further God’s plan? What new responsibilities come with this new empowerment? Every participant left feeling a little more thoughtful than they were when they arrived, but everyone took away very different personal messages, as the exhibits were bound to do.

“The fact that each piece was interactive was interesting because it gives more depth to what the viewer gets out of each piece,” said participant Megan Robinson-Yu. “If you’re interacting with it, it creates more questioning and thinking.”  http://tinyurl.com/63xt854

Nuit Blanche 2010

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