Legacy of marvels and merry-making
by Zoey Duncan
Half-naked and sweating copiously, Gregg Gillis is buoyant, bounding up and down, over and over, behind his plastic-wrapped laptop in Wyckham House. On stage, he’s surrounded by dozens of ebulliently dancing men and women, some wearing banana costumes, others in brightly hued plastic sunglasses. Beyond his perch, hundreds of frolicking souls are swaying, shouting and getting down to ultra-brief clips of songs they’ve grown up loving, while reams of Charmin Ultra are shot into the sky.
“No motherfucker in this building should do homework tonight,” Gillis proclaims at 1 a.m. This riotous concert is the capstone to the week-long inaugural Legacy of Ideas event at Mount Royal. “The rest of the (Legacy of Ideas) series is mostly speakers — which is great,” said Lara Unsworth, centennial events strategist, “but we thought there’s lots of other ways people express ideas too, in maybe unconventional ways.”
Unconventional indeed. The show started with Shamik — a phenomenal beatboxer from Vancouver — spitting out unfathomably percussive syllables. Edmonton rapper Cadence Weapon got an already excited crowd further riled by running through the crowd, full of energy, but running on only a few hours’ sleep. Legacy of Ideas is meant to “engage audiences in open dialogue, debate and introspection.” But while controversial mashup DJ Gregg Gillis — better known as Girl Talk — has kindled debate about copyright laws thanks to his unauthorized sampling of other artists’ music, there wasn’t much debate happening during the well-liquored show on Oct. 2.
There was, however, plenty of mental stimulation for the hundreds crammed into Wyckham House: Nintendo Wii remotes that controlled kaleidoscopic spotlights were on display for anyone with the patience to master the precise twisting motions. Laptops were hooked into LCD screens so that people could surf websites, or in the case of most rabble-rousers, so that they could play bizarre YouTube videos.
But the most visually stunning part of a provocative night may have been the canvasses commissioned by MRU and created over the course of a week outside of West Gate before being hung in Wyckham House.
“They’re just, ‘here’re the materials, go nuts,’ ” recalled Cey Adams, a veteran graffiti artist out of New York. “And I’m excited to have that opportunity, and it never gets old for me. “And that’s, you know, not something that I take lightly because they didn’t know what the hell we’re gonna do.”
“They” are the centennial events committee and MRU administration, who wanted the first Legacy event to be student-focused and unexpected. Adams’ canvas evolved over the course of a week as he brushed and sprayed alongside Winnipeg’s Pat Lazo and Calgary’s own David Brunning, better known as TheKidBelo.
“I’ve been doing this (kind of art) a very, very long time so it’s kinda fascinating to be here doing this kind of work at a university,” Adams said. “Because I can remember back when nobody gave a damn about what we were doing.” Adams’ swirling pinks and oranges give way to bold letters, “REACH” hurtling through a purple abyss alongside geometric rocks.
Lazo, who was the first artist at the one-of-a-kind graffiti gallery in Winnipeg, where he is now the art director, portrayed an artist, brush in hand, with an electric-blue current erupting from the top of his head. Both out-of-town artists’ works flow into Brunning’s letter piece: a noisy-in- a-good-way cacophony with vivid purple letters that are both angular and fluid. “It’s such a beautiful, universal language and people respect and recognize it from all walks and all cultures,” said Brunning of graffiti. “It’s cool that the university did that because really it speaks to (how) Mount Royal’s pretty multicultural and it’s also a university that embraces every type of race and every sexuality.” The final hanging place for the three-panel mural will be determined by an art expert, and based on light conditions and visibility, among other factors.
Though a night of exuberant dancing and visual arts is unlikely to live on in the history of Mount Royal University, the school’s commitment to unconventional thinking will paint the experience of students for years to come.