Touchless displays redefine immersive night festival during COVID-19 pandemic

By: Natan Ruman

Thomas Theriac and his brother Tony have always loved interactive art.

“I don’t like when you see a piece and can’t touch it,” said Thomas Theriac.

Nuit Blanche has been a staple in the Winnipeg art scene since its debut in 2010. Interactive displays like the LOOP by Ottoblix have been prevalent in Nuit Blanche in the past, but they often involve many strangers physically interacting with objects, which can be dangerous during a pandemic. 

When designing PanoptiBot, their art piece for Nuit Blanche, the Theriac brothers built it from the ground up with interactivity in mind. Specifically, using phones to replace the need for touch.

Thomas Theriac said interactive art connects us to the piece’s meaning in a way that other art cannot, inspiring you to make a change.

“It leaves you with a souvenir,” he said.

PanoptiBot wrestles with the conversation of surveillance capitalism, showing visitors how their activity is being watched by artificial intelligence.

Lennard Taylor painting a piece for his display at Nuit Blanche./NATAN RUMAN

And Nuit Blanche has much more to offer. Lennard Taylor is another artist organizing a display for the event. 

Textile Waste Reimagined demonstrates the clothing industry’s terrible impact on our environment. Taylor took donated jeans and sweatshirts and repurposed them into art. 

Taylor said empowering people is the best way to create change. He advocates for clothing that will last a lifetime, which is shown right in his piece when it comes to clothing waste. 

Although Nuit Blanche exhibits go up around Red River College’s Exchange District Campus, many students haven’t heard of it or don’t make time to see the installations.

Nakeisha Breyes, a Digital Media Design student, has never attended, but interactive displays and “something more than just art, but an experience” could pique her interest.

This year, Nuit Blanche will run from Sept. 24 to Oct. 24. Theriac compared it to a double-edged sword. The extended date will lower the number of viewers on a specific day, but allow more people to see their art in total.