Contemporary art is taking over many public spaces in Halifax during October, as two popular arts festivals coincide: Nocturne, the annual nighttime contemporary art festival, and Photopolis, a city-wide photography festival that happens every three years. Additionally, a newcomer, Responsive: Light and Art Projects, Halifax/Cologne, an international light festival, will be on view in Halifax from October 14 to 21.
So, what’s in store with this embarrassment of riches? Nocturne which happens on Oct. 12 (rain date is Oct. 14), has been mounting its popular festival for a decade, bringing thousands of people to downtown Halifax and Dartmouth, with late-night hours at all the art galleries in town and dozens of temporary projects sited around both downtowns.
In celebration of its 10th year, Nocturne presents a spotlight project: Trophy, created by Sarah Conn and Allison O’Connor, and produced by XOSECRET (Secret Theatre, Halifax) in co-production with STO Union. This large-scale installation on the Dartmouth waterfront will features “a pop-up tent city of stories,” each containing a person sharing a true story of a life-changing moment.
Trophy was a hit at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, and will also travel to Dublin this fall. The full list of events and activities will be released in mid-September. The curators of this year’s festival are Halifax artists Anna Sprague and Emily Davidson. The theme they have picked, Vanish, is appropriate for a temporary arts event. As they write, “Vanish alludes to both the ephemeral nature of the Nocturne experience and the shifting focus that occurs as new or forgotten memories are transposed over prevalent narratives and pasts.”
It has only been in recent decades that photography has achieved full fine-art status, being treated as an equal to sculpture, painting and drawing in art museums and galleries. At the same time, with the advent of the smart-phone, photography is more ubiquitous than ever. In a way, we’re all photographers, all the time. So, what makes art photography different? Photopolis, which takes place for the entire month, will feature over 30 exhibitions and projects in art galleries and alternative venues such as tattoo parlours, parks, cafés, and the ferry terminal. And each of them will answer that question in their own, unique way.
All of the public galleries in the city will be featuring photography exhibitions with too many to list here. I’m particularly looking forward to Steve Wadden’s images of Industrial Cape Breton, Forged, which will be on view at the SMU Art Gallery and the Turtle Grove Project, Kepe’kek (From the narrows of the great harbour), a response to the impact of the Halifax Explosion on the Turtle Grove community, 100 years later, by five Mi’kmaq youth, at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. There will be photo shows on at Dal, the Mount, and NSCAD’s Anna Leonowens gallery as well.
The private galleries and co-ops in town are also getting on board with projects at Studio 21, the Secord Gallery, Hermes, and Viewpoint Gallery, among others. One of the great things about Photopolis over its history have been the temporary projects, the pop-ups and the temporary installations outside of the galleries.
The newcomer to this group is Responsive: Light and Art Projects, Halifax/Cologne. I’m excited to share the details of that in my next post. Festivals bring life to a city, of course, as we know so well from such summer staples as Jazz Fest, Tall Ships and the Buskers. Halifax has always been a city with a vibrant arts scene, and the series of great events this October can only introduce more of us to that reality.