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Fifteen Restless Nights presents a map-like journey across Canada through the intimate experience of a motel room

TORONTO, September 5, 2006 — Harbourfront Centre’s Fresh Ground new works, presents Fifteen Restless Nights (Quinze nuits blanches),a collaborative art installation led by visual artist Derek Michael Besant. In Fifteen Restless Nights, image, text and sound merge together to document the vast landscape of Canada through the intimate experience of a motel room. Fifteen large-scale photographs of unmade beds, shot during nights spent in motel rooms across Canada, are printed with advanced technologies in thermal inks on veil scrims. An original jazz piece based on the theme of long nights and the highways between cities is integrated with the fragmented telling of fifteen original texts, recorded as spoken word in French and English. Fifteen Restless Nights is one of five projects awarded a $20,000 commission as part of Fresh Ground new works, a Harbourfront Centre initiative to commission new multi-disciplinary works in honour of its 30th anniversary.

The public opening reception for the exhibition takes place on Friday, September 15, from 7 to 9 p.m., at Harbourfront Centre’s York Quay Centre, 235 Queens Quay West. Admission to the reception and the exhibition is free. Fifteen Restless Nights runs from September 16 to November 5. Exhibition hours for Fifteen Restless Nights: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday noon till 8 p.m.; closed Monday except holiday Mondays, noon to 6 p.m. Catalogue with CD is available for sale for $15 at York Quay Centre. For information on Fifteen Restless Nights, the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit

Over the course of last year, visual artist Derek Michael Besant drove across Canada, spending nights in strange motels. Each morning, he’d wait and watch to see who might leave before the maids made their rounds. Often as people vacate their rooms, they leave the doors open, and Besant would take this opportunity to photograph the unmade beds and disarray like a crime scene. The stolen moment became the resource base for building his images as metaphoric landscapes referencing the distances of intimacy we recognize between us.

The open unfettered wilderness that one associates with Canada’s psyche and historical identity is also an experience that can exist between individuals in the distances defined between pillow and sheet. Psychologically, the distance that one might feel between one’s self and another might be akin to miles or only a touch away.

The soundtrack is sculpted to accompany the investigations into what the imagery elicits, much like what is overheard from the room next door, or the one-sided telephone conversation in a public place. There is room for interpretation. There is room for mistakes to be made. There is a certain anonymity in the pieces of what might be conversations, or private thoughts; but also a recognition factor from those experiences one might have found one’s self in on occasion.

Visual artist Derek Michael Besant is no stranger to the Toronto skyline. He exhibited extensively from the 1970s to the 1990s with Mira Godard Gallery and has two permanent major art commissions that are part of the city’s landmarks: The Flatiron Mural on the Gooderham Flatiron Building in Front Street’s Theatre District, and Waterfall, a 15 story image in the heart of Toronto’s Bay and King Street Banking District at ScotiaPlaza.

Besant, as project lead, assembled a diverse creative team. Diane Schoemperlen conjured up characters who locked their doors and set the alarm, to wake up at 5 a.m. Glimpses into strangers and lovers, wives and robbers, losers and killers, and saints and sinners. Renée Anique Francoeur translated those words. The Bent Spoon Jazz Trio drove one whole night to gather audio sources of tires on blacktop, rain on the windshield wipers, and gas station stops that would inspire their score of a night drive.

Sophie Saboureau McGoey and Yves Trépanier brought their French perceptions to the recording studio to re-enact Schoemperlen’s scenes with sensibilities that changed from one scene to another like hidden dimensions within themselves. Trépanier became the man with the gun, while Sophie missed her flight home and was stranded. Meanwhile at the other end of the country, Jane E. Nokes became the voice of the suicide, and Randy Otto defined the man who found the earring on the bathroom floor. Their intimate reconstructions of Schoemperlen’s words in English were moving and confessional. K. Gwen Frank literally dropped by the studio one day and Besant had her read some of the text and recorded her fragile breathless voice as an adjunct ghosting that would shadow in and out of the spoken parts. Paul Connolly assembled and sculpted the sound sources together into the soundtrack. R.J. “Stu” Stuart recorded every swallow and vowel that chased down each word and archived the master audio files.

Fifteen Restless Nights Collaborative Team:

Derek Michael Besant: Visual Artist/Project Lead
Role: project concept manager and to conjure the images for exhibition.

Diane Schoemperlen: Writer
Role: to write 15 fragmented scripts to be spoken and visualized in the project.

Paul Connolly: Music Composer
Role: to take the jazz background recording and spoken word components with the artist, and reconstruct it into a contemporary soundscape to give context to the 15 images.

The Bent Spoon Trio: Sounds
Role: to improvise and record an original jazz background based on the nocturnal theme.

Jane E. Nokes: Voice
Role: to record female voice reading Schoemperlen's text in English.
Corporate Sponsor (audio soundtrack CD production/ Canada Disc Inc.).

Randy Otto: Voice
Role: to record male voice reading Schoemperlen's text in English.
Advanced Digital Technology Image production technical liaison.
Corporate Sponsor (public advertising poster boards in City of Toronto).

Yves Trépanier: Voice
Role: to record male voice translating and reading Schoemperlen's text in French.

Sophie Saboureau McGoey: Voice
Role: to record female voice translating and reading Schoemperlen's text in French.

K. Gwen Frank: Voice
Role: to augment voice over recordings, echoes and sound.

Renée Anique Francoeur: Translator
Role: to translate the Schoemperlen written texts from English to French.

R.J. “Stu” Stuart: Audio
Role: to record each word and archive the master audio files.

Fresh Ground new works is made possible by the generosity of several individual donors who have been active in assisting in the creation of new Canadian works, including: Peter Allen, Lionel Conacher and Joan Dea, James D. and Margaret Fleck, Sonja and Michael Koerner, Judy and Wil Matthews, George H. Myhal, Sandra and Jim Pitblado, Gretchen and Donald Ross, 1 Anonymous, and a grant from the Imperial Tobacco Canada Arts Fund.

Corporate partner sponsors directly involved with the Fifteen Restless Nights project are Pattison Outdoor Group and Scotiabank Group.

Media Contact:
Linda Liontis
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