Those who braved the trek across a snowy campus on Feb. 1 were rewarded with an evening of inspiring student artwork. The McGill Fine Arts Council (FAC) hosted its annual Nuit Blanche exhibition in the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) building. Nuit Blanche featured McGill-based artists and fine arts clubs, including organizations devoted to dance, creative writing, visual art, theatre, and music. This year’s theme “Itero,” which translates roughly to “Reiteration,” was designed to question the role of repetition in the creation of art. The event questions whether there’s such a thing as a truly original idea, or if all art is just a reimagination of its predecessors.
As most student artists at McGill are painfully aware, the university offers very few academic opportunities for creative expression—there are no studio arts courses, and ENGL 364, the one creative writing course offered through the English department, is usually capped at 15 students. However, the variety of talent displayed at Nuit Blanche shows that there are plenty of clubs and student groups that can provide artistic inspiration and community instead.
The McGill Students’ Visual Arts Society and the Fridge Door Gallery both featured visual art exhibitions at Nuit Blanche. Visitors were greeted with vibrant shapes and colours featured in larger works mounted on the walls, and encountered more delicate pieces such as small sculptures and sketches while perusing the tables. Several artists displayed sketchbooks or diaries that contained both polished and in-progress work, offering audiences an in-depth look at their creative process. In her piece “Sketchbook,” Leah Smith, U3 Sociology and Philosophy, offered viewers a glimpse of her creative inspiration through collages featuring images of women against backdrops of brightly coloured magazine advertisements. Several tables in the SSMU ballroom were covered by blank paper so that visitors could doodle when inspiration struck.
There was also a section devoted solely to student photography. This exhibition featured the McGill University Photography Students Society (MUPSS) as well as the independently curated work of Nina Chabel, U2 Art History and English Literature, and Madeline Kinney, U3 Cultural Studies. Chabel’s series “Tourists” featured visitors at a museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, snapping pictures on their phones, asking audience members to reflect on the extent to which they view the world through a screen. Chabel also had other photos of St. Petersburg featured in the Fridge Door Gallery section. These shots featured a soft colour palette and vintage vehicles, making viewers feel as though they were gazing at a reiteration of the past.
In addition to visual artwork, the evening featured several performing artists. There were three McGill dance groups in attendance. The members of Alegria performed contemporary ballet, Inertia focused on modern dance, and Mosaica performed a mix of jazz, contemporary, ballet, hip-hop, and tap. Each group danced against the backdrop of a slideshow of artwork featured in F WORD, a Montreal-based feminist zine and collective. The SSMU ballroom also held performances by Montreal-based folk artists Vikki Gilmore, Clyde Veer, and Shit Whitman, as well as indie rock artists Lara Antebi and Juan Egana.
Much of the artwork on display did not strictly adhere to the theme “Reiteration.” However, viewers could still be amazed at the devotion and talent of the artists represented at Nuit Blanche. The artists’ works offered a view of McGill student life that is not always visible but always worth seeing.