Due to server errors, my website is experiencing some problems that will take some time to repair.  I am currently updating site and restoring lost images.  My website might have broken images or broken pages, for this I apologize.

Please be patient with me during this time of repair.

Site will be more active Summer 2014, stay tuned!

-Vanessa Rieger


Thanks to everyone who came to SMALL TALK for my NIGHTLIFEGUARD lecture. It went swimmingly!

For those who missed it, here are some highlights from the power point presentation.  Big thanks to Vince Vining, Mina Mancuso and Nathaniel Addison for taking such wonderful photos.

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Stay up to date with NIGHTLIFEGUARD at the facebook group page.

Also, NIGHTLIFEGUARD will be working at this year’s ALLCAPS FESTIVAL on Toronto Island.  For those of you attending and enjoy late night swims, see you on the night beach!

NIGHTLIFEGUARD @ Small Talk Lecture Series


This upcoming Wednesday I’m giving a talk on my NIGHTLIFEGUARD project
@ the SMALL TALK lecture series
(DREAM HOUSE aka 1059 Bathurst)


I’ll be discussing my residency last year at Don Blanche, where I built a Night Life Guarding chair and enacted my project for the duration of two weeks. I’ll also be discussing first aid tips for all swimmers, pool hopping etiquette, Toronto’s pool politics and why Night Life Guarding is a necessary service and should be considered as a serious guerilla practice.

Photo by Nathaniel Addison.

Photo by Nathaniel Addison.

CLICK HERE for facebook event.


Water Walk Sky Floating Residency

From August 13th to August 18th I participated in Felix Kalmenson‘s new art residency project “Water Walk Sky” on Toronto Island. After helping Felix with the floating room project during the New Traditions festival, Felix asked me to be one of the first artists to participate in the residency.

The first week of the residency was spent helping Felix weatherize the cube to withstand rain and cold. We used plastic siding usually found on buildings in the suburbs. It created a funny juxtaposition, as if the cube was liberated from a plastic environment and escaped to the nature of the island. One night while putting up the siding it started to pour rain and we worked all night through a thunder storm to get it finished. Working in a bathing suit in warm summer rain was very exhilarating!

Once the siding was complete I started working inside the cube. I had been given a huge roll of metallic tarp from Laura McCoy and used it to line the walls. I lined the floor with blue tarp… water floor. Then I started working on a sculptural piece on one of the walls to use as a reference for a series of paintings that I would paint while staying in the cube.

The end of the first week of my residency coincided with the ALLCAPS festival. Due to bad weather forecasting, I knew that it would rain all weekend and decided it would be best to build a temporary roof to shelter my installation. I worked with a friend and fellow painter Jonathan Edward Mayhew and built a temporary roof. Jonathan taught me some new skills and showed me different folding and darting techniques that he learned while attending fashion school. We built the roof out of an orange tarp and used a denim darting technique to make the seams waterproof. When lit from inside it created a beautiful orange glow.

On the day of ALLCAPS festival we tried bringing the cube over from the work yard to the water but was met with some trouble. One of the wheels snapped off in the move due to mud from the rain and we had to park it in the main space near the stage. At first what seemed to be a disappointment turned out was a blessing in disguise since the cube was now located right near the camping area and had more accessibility to festival goers to view.

During the ALLCAPS festival people were invited to enter the cube and look at my sculptural installation. The response was interesting as the piece itself was very reflective and would change colour at different times of day, and also reflect the viewers who stood before it. Over all the response was good and people liked to interact with the piece and also get shelter from the rain.

What was extremely exciting was that night, due to being cooped up all day inside because of rain, the weather cleared up and everyone seemed to gravitate towards the cube. Next thing you know, someone starting DJing, James Gardner from VSVSVS hooked up some decent speakers and a sound reactive strobe and we had a full blown dance party on our hands! The cube turned out to be the hottest club on the island that night, and Felix had to play bouncer at the door because of load limitations and could only let so many people in at a time so a line up was created to get in! It was interesting to observe how in such a huge wide open space, everyone seemed gravitate to the smallest room possible for a dance party. I think maybe its because small spaces force you to interact, physically touch others and create more of an intimate social situation. Had an amazing time dancing within my installation.

The second week of the residency was spent working within the cube as a studio and painting from the sculpture as a still life. One night I worked too late and I missed the last ferry and decided to sleep the night in the cube. It was great! I could hear all the beautiful crickets just out side the door. Other than that the island was very quiet and peaceful.

After ALLCAPS, someone had left me a small metallic blue balloon tied to the cube. I brought it in and it effortlessly became part of my sculpture. It would dance and sway in the breeze and keep my company as I worked. It reminded me of being a young girl and one of my first best friends was a heart-shaped helium balloon man I had received as a gift for my birthday. I took this balloon around with me everywhere. I must have been 3-4 years old. The day the balloon deflated, I remember vividly now. I lost a dear friend that day. Its so funny, I hadn’t thought of it for all these years until this blue balloon appeared. Simple objects triggering memories of simpler times.

Another unexpected surprise during the residency was that after the crazy dance party the night of ALLCAPS, the blue tarp that had been lining the floor had been worn down by all the dancing and created an interesting texture to the tarp. The lines in the tarp etched in by the feet of so many people dancing and having a fun time! What an interesting marking process! I was so excited by the textures and lines created that I decided to stretch the tarp material over stretchers and create them into their own piece. Relics of such an amazing night.

At the end of my residency, Felix, Casey Wong and I repaired the wheels and gathered a bunch of people and got the cube into the water. It was a crazy mission but it worked! I set my installation up and got prepared for the opening. I set up the paintings in the room across from the actual sculpture itself. There was a lot of reflexivity going on in that room. Felix came by with a huge bowl of watermelon for the opening.. a reward to those who trekked so far across the lake to make it to the reception. I think Blue Balloon liked its portrait… as I caught it self-reflecting.

Performance artist Kaitlyn Till-Landry was in town from New York and was invited to come and do a performance on the dock close to the cube. She recorded herself posing in a thugged out outfit on a live online web-cam snorting whey protein. She then entered the cube and immediately showed the video afterwards. The immediacy of the video performance was uncanny, and to think it being on a dock, on an island, in a floating cube. The internet is magic!

Overall my experience in the floating cube was amazing, unexpected and refreshing. It felt so exciting to be part of a project unlike anything else. It seemed fitting for me at the time personally because I was also in the process of moving my art studio into a new space, and Water Walk Sky seemed to bridge that gap and make tangible the feelings I was experiencing. Moving onwards, flowing, changing and adapting. Cube of dreams.

Thanks to all who helped with the project and to those who came to show your support.

Big on Bloor: BAAF performance

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Last weekend I participated with the Big on Bloor arts festival in Toronto. A “Performance Cube” was created and curated by White House Studio members Basil AlZeri and David Graham. For two days the cube showcased a revolving array of different White House Studio members doing different performances. I performed a new piece called Eye-Catching where I performed the ritualized process of creating these objects I call “Eye-Catchers”. Similar to the idea of dream-catchers, my Eye-Catchers are meant to be used as talismans against the evil eye. Reflective, colourful and flashy, they’re meant to catch one’s first glance, which is thought in superstitions to be the most potent and deadliest of gazes. I performed in my Tarp Ghost persona and gave the Eye-Catchers to anyone in the audience that would hold eye contact with me. Overall, I felt the performance went really well and people seemed very curious about the piece. Video coming soon.

New Traditions 2012

On June 30th, 2012… I worked with Whippersnapper helping to prepare and work the New Traditions arts and music festival. Overall it was a huge success and heavily attended. I dont think I’ve been to a more laid back festival before. Everyone was exploring the space and hanging out on the beach, listening to live music, swimming in the lake and taking in different performances. I had such a magical day and felt proud of all my friends and co-whippersnapper members for doing such an amazing job.

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During setp-up I mainly helped my friend Felix Kalmenson with this floating room installation. Weeks before we reclaimed discarded barrels from the island dump to help build the raft… which was a pretty treacherous mission, but we came out alive! Felix then spent all week building the room and structure, then I helped with final touches and helping haul it to the beach. Overall, I think the project was a huge success, and when inside the floating room looking out the window, it gave you a sense of calm and serenity… just beyond the crazy party that was happening on shore. That night, once most of the crowds had thinned out and gone back to mainland, a lot of residents and other artists swam up to the room and really max out the capacity. It was so much fun but also frightening because it looked as if the room would just fall apart. If anything it tested Felix’s workmanship, and passed. The room held up with over 15 people inside, all singing and dancing and being debaucherous! I have fond memories of moon jamming with the CN tower liquidation guys and Emily Hogg, serenading the moon… and watching the crazy red moon-set with Sandy Plotnikoff. I was also given the opportunity to test trail a performative project of mine called NIGHTLIFEGUARD… which essentially was just to look out for people swimming in and out to the room and just generally be the life guard for such a crazy night. And also to provide glo-sticks and strobe lights. I got really positive feedback about the project idea and it really has motivated me to keep going with it.

Felix Kalmenson is working on making the Floating Room an artist residency. I will be the 2nd showing artist in this new space! Please support!
For more info go to:

Toronto 2012: The Year of the Bike

Last year a bright neon orange bike showed up in front of our neighbour’s store at Model Citizen. It sat there for a few weeks until me and a couple of people at the White House art studios started wondering who’s bike it was. Since we are a group of emerging artists, we can’t afford transportation like cars. Some of us even have a hard time paying public transportation fare (since 3$ a ride can add up with our meager budgets!) so we rely heavily on our bikes to get around Toronto. The bikes we can afford are usually second-hand/used and break down a lot. Lots of cyclists salvage deserted bikes for usable parts and recycle bikes headed for the dumpster.

So you could imagine our amazement when this bike showed up glowing as if a gift from the gods! Practically brand new, tires full of air and possessed wonderful accessories like reflectors, handle bars and a basket. We waited and waited and waited, and after a month of it just sitting there unmoved we decided it was fair game. When we tried to remove its usable parts we realized that they were in fact unusable because someone had primed/spray painted the entire bike, sealing all bolts and screws, seizing brake lines, sticking the gears and pretty much rendering it completely useless. We stood there puzzled, trying to figure out what the point the was. Why would someone take a perfectly good bike and make it totally unusable? Was is just meant for an aesthetic ornament?

Then I remembered a few years ago there was this project called Ghost Bike which was an international project that used white bikes as signifiers, or urban landmarks, for cyclist fatalities. I remember seeing them all over Toronto as Toronto’s cyclist community used Ghost Bike as a form of social awareness and protest against the City for cyclist rights and safety issues. They would lock up bikes are dangerous intersections and locations of cyclist fatalities. The Ghost Bikes had an eerie presence as if they were tombstones scattered among the city streets like debris. Since I thought that maybe this project was related or perhaps similar we decided to look it up on the internet and see if we could get more information. The first image we came across was this:

"First time on a bike?"

Scary, isn't it?

All of our jaws dropped (aka WTF?!?!?!). First of all, why would Toronto’s notorious Mayor Rob Ford, who is known for his cruel and unsympathetic stance on bike lanes and cyclists, be doing on a bike?! Secondly, why was it this same neon orange? What did it mean? This was all very shocking and confusing so I decided to do more research into the matter.

Here’s an article by the National Post that talks about Rob Ford riding into council on a neon orange bike and hamming it up for the cameras. Big photo opportunity centralized around an art project turned political feud. Turns out two artists who run the Ocad student gallery decided to paint a deserted bike in front of the gallery neon orange and create a garden in the basket, then they got a ticket from the city for vandalism. If you didn’t already know, Ford (like many before him), is on the anti-graffiti crusade band-wagon. I guess busting street art “vandals” just looks so good in the headlines to taxpayers but doesn’t it make you wonder: “Aren’t there bigger problems that need solving?” Adam Vaughn had some interesting quotes about street art documentation and cultural protection and he used this neon bike thing as an example. With support from the City, the two young artists started The Good Bike Project, which is similar to the Ghost Bike Project, but using colour coded bikes to signify different cultural landmarks throughout the city (neon orange representing the visual arts). However, the two artists: Caroline Macfarlane and Vanessa Nicholas felt that Rob Ford’s actions, as well as other counciler’s use of their project was a form of political hijacking for their own agendas. They had no idea Rob Ford would jump on their bike and use it for a photo opportunity and they felt a serious backlash from the arts community once this made the media. Here is an excerpt from an email interview I had with Vanessa and Caroline:

“Our hearts sank soon thereafter when, against our express wishes, Mayor Ford initiated an impromptu photo-op with our bike, which we’d left on the floor of Council in order to field questions from reporters in the media gallery. Within minutes the image of Ford sitting astride our bright orange two-wheeler was all over Twitter and Facebook, making it easy for outsiders to confuse the initiative as the Mayor’s own. Ford’s agenda was confirmed the next day when we realized that his assistant, Tom Beyer, had started a Facebook page and Twitter account for our project, which he then insisted on managing for us.

This sequence of events marked the first in a series of shortcomings and broken promises that left us largely alone to realize a project started at the City’s prompting. As it turned out, the City never connected us with sponsors, was unable to coordinate all of the bicycle deliveries we requested, and did little to help us transport bicycles to our project sites. To add insult to injury, Mayor Ford never replied to the letter we hand-delivered to his office, in which we advocated for the protection of the Jarvis bike lane and politely asked him to explain how he could support our project whilst also giving cyclists something to protest. Furthermore, no one from City Hall donated as little as one dollar to the campaign we started on the crowd-funding site, RocketHub. We worked on this project for part of every single day between June and October; and the City’s failure to sustain the fervor of interest and support of those early days shows a lack of respect and appreciation for the long-haul work of artists and art administrators.” -Vanessa Nicolas and Caroline Macfarlane of The Good Bike Project

One can’t help but ask the question: Why would the City attempt to derail an art project that the City itself helped initiate? As unfortunate as it is for the artists involved, this project highlights and acts as a perfect example of how contradictory the City is towards the rights of its citizen cyclists and local artists. The more I read about this issue, the more I realize how important it is for citizens and artists to use “the Bike” as an art object, as a medium, because whether you intend for it or not, riding a bike right now in Toronto is a political act. Now, I’m not saying every bike rider is a tree-hugger or an activist, but what I mean is that there are ulterior motives within current Toronto politics and “The Bike” is hitting a strange chord with politicians. Is it because of the oil industry? The recession? The fact cyclists don’t pay for gas, insurance or parking spaces? Is that the reason cyclists are demonized in the media? Who knows, but the most important fact beyond all speculations, is that our rights to safety on our city streets is slowly being taken away from us, and that riding a bike in the eyes of many car-commuting conservatives is seen as an act of defiance whether you like it or not.

Painting by Matthieu Leferve

After last summer and heading into fall, Torontonians mourned the tragic deaths of two Canadian cyclists: Jenna Morrison, a pregnant mother and yoga teacher and Montreal artist Matthieu Leferve. Both were killed by trucks with wide turning trailers, and both drivers were not charged even though both deaths were considered “preventable”. What is even more scary is the increasing tensions between cyclists and motorists. 2 years ago, I myself was the victim of assault and roadrage. I was assaulted and my bike damaged when a strange man in a Black Toyota Tacoma decided he would “teach me a lesson” for crossing queen street on my bike while he was stuck in traffic. Despite the fact he followed me, assaulted me and spouted hateful remarks about me being “gay” (because I have short hair and ride a bicycle???), the police interrogated me as if I were the assailant even though the man who assaulted me was 3 times my size. Why does riding a bike put you at a disadvantage? Because, like I said before, whether you like it or not, riding a bike is considered a rebellious act. The only reason the police let me go is because I had a clean record, and the strange man already had reports written up on him all having to do with road rage. Other than that, I swear from the looks in the cops eyes, I was guilty because I was an artist and a cyclist aka: up to no good.

Now, it’s not all doom and gloom. I’ve learned a lot from this whole situation. I know this article is currently painting a dark picture, but there is a lot of good that can come from all this. I know that personally, after the assault, I dealt with a lot of issues. There was the bitterness, the lack of faith in our police service, but overall, the fear of getting back on my bike. For a brief moment, I was scared of getting back on the road for fear of assault, pissing off the wrong driver, or finding myself again at a disadvantage because I was a cyclist. But maybe that’s what this is all about. Perhaps fear is the tool to get you to buy that car so you can feel “safer on the roads” or perhaps, take the TTC because it’s the “safer way”. I just simply refuse to be bullied off my bike by road-raging drivers with delusions of self-righteousness or by politicians who drive to work everyday making decisions that potentially put myself, my friends and family at risk.

Last summer, fellow artist Jeff Garcia initiated a PSYCH BIKE Workshop. He invited the community to come to his artist residency space, Halo Halo Village, and get creative with their bikes with lots of provided materials and found objects. The three main functions for the Psych Bike: 1. anti-theft (because of personalization) 2. Road Safety (because they’re flashy drivers see you coming) and 3. It looks PSSSYCCCHHH!!! Taking cues from the Scraper Bike Movement originating out of Oakland California, Garcia’s Psych Bikes has more of that Toronto-Canadian-psychedelic-urban-folk-trash-art inspired edge. At the workshop I decked out my bike, giving it a new paint job, flashy rims and also helped others with their bikes. What I enjoyed the most about this project was the smiles it produced while biking down the street. Children and adults alike would stop and smile, and I even received compliments from other cyclists on the street. Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by positivity by riding a bike. Even car-drivers would roll their windows down and compliment my bike. Who would have thought?

In the end, despite all the negativity and politics that has been circulating around cyclists and bike lanes, I think it’s really important for people to get out there on their bikes and do something positive with them! MORE THAN EVER, now is the time to reclaim this whole situation and steer it away from the negative side where politics take it. Bike initiatives like Critical Mass and Art Spin are good places to start by participating in activities that celebrate cycling and promote public safety. In general, bikes are an amazing invention and when used as a tool or medium for artistic expression you can really make an impact on the world and people around you, and have a fun time doing it too.

See you on the streets!