What is la nuit blanche?
In keeping with France’s fascination with art and culture – and bolstered by a seemingly infinite arts budget – La Nuit Blanche (translated as ‘the sleepless night’) is a contemporary arts festival, held from 7pm on Saturday October 3rd to the early hours of Sunday morning.
It will see 30 international contemporary artists bring their cutting edge art installations onto the streets of Paris.
Now in its 14th year, the ‘all-nighter’ event enables art lovers and rookies alike to embark, map in hand, on an ‘artistic hike’ across the cityscape, taking in works inspired by dance, music, street art and even the circus. With only a handful of works set indoors, the idea is to bring big art into big public spaces for all the world to see.
Who is behind it?
For the second year running it is artistic director José-Manuel Gonçalvès taking the reins of the event, and he is all set to continue his initial vision of bringing art to the feet of the people, instead of confining it to stuffy museums.
With this year’s slogan ‘Atmosphere?…Atmosphere!’, Gonçalvès hopes to inspire a feeling of discovery and enlightenment in the city and in spectators alike. As, for him, Paris is a city in ‘permanent evolution’, Gonçalvès wants the artist’s work to evoke the transformation of the city; and, by placing the new amongst the old, he hopes viewers will see the cityscape in a different light.
With this vision in mind, instead of hopping on the metro and missing all the hidden gems of the streets, the walk is intended to be done on foot, with an art display never more than 500 metres away, often along disused railway tracks and lesser-known alleys filled with street art.
What’s special about this year?
This year the festival is based in the north west and north east of the city, with hotly-tipped installations placed in the Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement, and for the first time going as far north as Aubervilliers which on the far side of the Peripherique ringroad.
The two main walking routes, or ‘parcours’, will depart from Parc Monceau and Gare du Nord, with a useful blue line painted on the pavement to help guide walkers.
A big focus for 2015 is ‘the relationship between nature and the city’ and ‘the climate question’, in keen anticipation of the International Climate Change Conference (COP21) taking place in Paris in December. Many artists hope to draw attention to the ‘savage world’ which is under our nose (or feet), and which we sometimes choose not to see, and often treat badly. Although the festival is based in the north, there will be over 130 art projects around the whole city, so don’t be afraid to veer off the beaten track.
What to see this year
Melting Ice at Hotel de Ville
Outside the Town Hall in the fourth arrondissement, 270 blocks of coloured ice symbolising different countries of the world will slowly melt over the course of the evening, forming an immense abstract patchwork in the style of Chinese painting. The Chinese artist, Zhenchen Liu, hopes this work will evoke the beauty of the earth which is slowly being destroyed under our noses.
Walk under a wave
Head to Batignolles in the 17th after 8pm at the Eco-parc Martin Luther King de Clichy Batignolles to see an installation by Daan Roosegarde, which gives the spectator a chance to feel like they’re at the bottom of the ocean. This big blue wave, placed three metres above the ground, is not only sure to be deeply atmospheric, but a potent reminder of raising sea levels due to climate change.
The Night of Bees at Parc Monceau
Be still and listen to a symphony of insects, birds and frogs, recorded in the south of France by Erik Samakh and amplified in Parc Monceau on Saturday night. Samakh wants the public to ‘listen’ to the consequences of climate change and be reminded of the many species threatened with extinction. The exhibition, called “La nuit des abeilles” in French, is closest reached by the Metro Monceau.
Melting Building at the Gare du Nord
The ‘master of illusion’ Leandro Erlich attacks architecture in peril by creating the optical illusion of a building melting due to climate change on the square in front of the Gare du Nord. Financed by the city budget of 2014, this work will become a permanent fixture at the train station.
Silent disco at the Gare du Nord
As a perfect end to the evening, the Gare du Nord train station will be transformed into a giant dance floor and silent disco, so after pounding the streets of the city why not shake it off among the rail tracks? A ticket costs €26 and doors open at 11.30pm (and close at 5am). More information here.
Find more essential info about La Nuit Blanche (in English) here. All photos: La Nuit Blanche/Facebook
By: Ellie O'Driscoll