Reflections on CITYLights Nuit Blanche- not your average sleepless night


Paul Boken, BFA, LC, Vice President, Mulvey & Banani Lighting

The Nuit Blanche event is pure adrenalin for the Mulvey & Banani Lighting team.

For the past four years the firm has joined forces with Toronto’s students, emerging young professionals and some of the best cross-disciplinary local artists to explore applications of the latest lighting technologies onto Toronto’s cityscape to create magical, temporary, site-specific lighting installations.

From dusk to dawn, Nuit Blanche provides a public ‘playground of light’ for one, enchanting night. Our installations have explored how public space can be transformed with light. Each year, the Mulvey & Banani Lighting team pushes technical boundaries in a new way, and ‘free associates’ light with human interaction, shadow play, sound, movement, and even thermal imaging.  New technologies in video and audio recognition allow for light to interact with individuals in meaningful ways, ie: when light reacts, it deepens the communication possible over the particular medium.

In our day-to-day work in the office we increasingly see applications in the industry for lighting that is “reactive” to surroundings. To our delight, features of some of the lighting concepts and techniques we have explored at Nuit Blanche have been translated into permanent installations.  While other forms of digital media can distract us, lighting connects technology with the physical world in pleasing ways that enhances our experience of place.

This year’s CITYLights 2020 special online edition “The Space Between Us”, will focus on connections across urban, polar and pacific landscapes. The live event will be greatly missed, but we reflect back on the themes and outcomes of our past installations:

CITYLights 2019-  “Thermally Speaking”: The installation translated the radiant energy of human bodies as they moved through Fort York, exploring human bodies as vessels of energy, containers of fire and water, constantly undergoing renewal and death at a cellular level. Thermography and infrared measurement tools were used to uncover the fields of energy of which all humans are a part. Visitors ascended the rooftop ramp of the Fort York Visitors’ Centre towards an exceptional view over the Fort York site -their presence and energy was reflected throughout the surfaces of the building in colourful translations of their activity.   Mulvey & Banani Lighting and local Canadian artist group “LeuWebb Projects”

CITYLights 2018- “(G) Listening”: Interactive lighting was used to explore the dialogue between nature and the city, transforming Cloud Gardens Park into a dynamic play of energy -ricocheting, rippling, and caroming around and amongst the architectural structures, trees, foliage and water. Three interaction stations allowed the visiting public to trigger and channel the play of visual energy across the canvas of the park. Mulvey & Banani Lighting and local Canadian artist David Rokeby

CITYLights 2017 – “Disturbing Graffiti”: Exploration of the use of light as a medium for public art in an urban laneway, playing with movement and shadow. Mulvey & Banani Lighting and local Canadian artist group Studio F-Minus

CITYLights 2016 – “Facing Fire”: The installation at Victoria Park sought to make connections between two very large formative Canadian events- the war of 1812 (the Park is the final resting place of many War of 1812 soldiers stationed at Fort York), and the wildfires occurring at the time in Fort McMurray, Alberta,  Mulvey & Banani Lighting and local Canadian artist group Dereck Revington Studio.