THE GREAT ONE’S AURA COMES TO NUIT BLANCHE

Gret­zky gets the artis­tic treat­ment with per­for­mance piece

Edmonton Journal - - YOU - FISH GRIWKOWSKY fgri­wkowsky@post­media.com Twit­ter: @fisheye­foto

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.

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