THE GREAT ONE’S AURA COMES TO NUIT BLANCHE
Gretzky gets the artistic treatment with performance piece
Nuit Blanche Sept. 29 is off to a “Great” start — its first announced artist will be summoning the aura of one-time bedrock Edmontonian Wayne Gretzky.
The interactive art exhibition, which is free all over downtown at numerous locations through the fall night, first came to Edmonton in 2015, and saw some 50,000 participants enjoy large-scale installations from locals such as Gary James-Joynes inside City Hall, to a forest to make wishes designed by Yoko Ono.
Regarding the Great One, for the past decade, Montreal-based artist Thierry Marceau is known for his savvy portrayals — something deeper than mere impersonations — of notables in the art world and beyond.
Examples of his subjects include Andy Warhol, Marina Abromovic, Bob Ross, Marilyn Manson and Ronald McDonald — each a performer in their own way, though Marceau has also blended into the throng playing a Paris street sweeper, suddenly breaking into dance and entertaining the tourists.
When taking on a larger-thanlife persona, Marceau buries himself in extensive research about his subject so his performance can exist on a light, crowd-pleasing level, yet still suggest something deeper about, for example, the artifice of celebrity.
He explains: “What we have in mind for Wayne Gretzky, it’s an image that’s more than a human being — it’s like a perfect diamond. We don’t know what he’s doing behind his house and that’s OK, because it’s not part of ‘our’ Wayne Gretzky.
“I understand this is one of the most sensitive ones.”
Working again with curator Wayne Baerwaldt as he had in a previous Canada Council show in Ottawa exploring Gretzky’s mythology, Marceau knew there was only one person to inhabit in Edmonton — the former Oiler who still impacts the city ’s idea of itself since he moved to L.A., count ’em, 30 years ago.
During an informal information session Sunday at the Art Gallery of Alberta, curator Baerwaldt notes: “I’m very much interested in his adoption of media icons — how he responds as an artist, not just to become an impostor, but how he deconstructs the images and looks at the values and beliefs associated with them.
“In a respectful way,” he adds, “because we know Wayne Gretzky to be truly The Great One. He’s looking at what he did in the city, where he did it — how people interpreted it — in a lot of ways very legendary actions and gestures within the community.
“How do you take all that and turn it into a performance that can be repeated numerous times during a 12-hour period?”
Like Easter recreations of Christ approaching his fate on Golgotha, Marceau will create various tableaus from Gretzky ’s life — including a famous injury, the so-called royal wedding named by Maclean’s as one of our nation’s top 150 historical moments, and the infamous trade to L.A.
I bring up Gretzky’s godlike status in the city and ask Marceau if he’s afraid of getting the orthodoxy wrong. “I think I’ve touched on something sensitive, so we’ve been talking about ways of getting it straight. When I work with characters, I’m separating them from the real human beings.
“It’s impossible to make everyone happy, but we’re not going to pour oil on the fire for no reason. It’s not a good thing for me as an artist to make a promise I won’t touch anything sensitive — usually I’m jumping at it,” he laughs. “But I know this time, maybe I need to wear some smaller shoes.”
Rollerblades, actually — barring the streets turning to ice.
The performance will include video and photography. One of Marceau’s dreams is that he’ll get to talk to the best hockey player ever at some point during this process.
“As a transplant to Alberta,” says Nuit Blanche’s president and chair Todd Janes, “I knew Gretzky had a lot of love out there — but I didn’t realize the enormity of love. Gretzky is an Edmonton story, and for us at Nuit Blanche it’s really important that we are able to animate and contextualize stories about what makes our city great.”
It begins with a little Russian-American alliance! Moscow-born, classically-influenced indie musician Regina Spektor is the first name in for this year’s Edmonton Folk Music Festival, her debut on the hill. The EFMF runs Aug. 9-12, and she’ll play Saturday.
Best known for her song Fidelity, Spektor — a whiz on the piano — often underscores her soaring, wistful lyrics with electric guitar, and has noted of her narrative style, “It doesn’t feel natural for me to write some diary-type song. I want to write a classic like Yesterday, but weird songs about meatballs in refrigerators come into my head — I can’t help it.”
A good omen in a city so filled with Slavs and younger listeners rolling up under those giant floppy hats, the full list of entertainers on Gallagher Park hill will drop at 11 a.m. May 30. We’ll keep you posted, deal?
Oh, and mark your calendars: tickets go on sale 9 a.m. June at the EFMF office (10115 97A Ave.), then at 10 a.m. the same day through the various forms of Ticketmaster.
What we have in mind for Wayne Gretzky, it’s an image that’s more than a human being — it’s like a perfect diamond.
Platinum-selling Degrassi alumnus Drake is coming to Rogers Place Nov. 6, one of 41 dates across North America on his Aubrey and the Three Amigos Live! tour. He’ll be bringing Migos along for the ride, the trio that unleashed a hilarious TV dance party throwback video for Walk It Talk It a couple of months back featuring the rapper.
Drake, a passionate courtside Raptors fan who was recently given a warning by the NBA for foul language, first entered the wider public eye on Degrassi: The Next Generation before embarking on a rap career that earned him the most charted songs by a solo artist in the history of the Billboard Hot 100.
The Toronto-born musician and producer has won multiple Grammys, Junos and American Music Awards, and is an artistic descendent of Kanye West, Jay Z, Lil Wayne and a number of dance hall artists — his top-charting songs including One Dance, God’s Plan and Nice for What, as well as appearances on Rihanna’s Work and What’s My Name?
Running $59.50 to $199.50, tickets are available to the general public at 10 a.m. Friday through livenation.ca.
Curator Wayne Baerwaldt, left, and artist Thierry Marceau,who will be performing as Wayne Gretzky during Nuit Blanche on Sept. 29.