52 ROBERT WILSON ART IS THE TREE OF LIFE
‚The Watermill is like a treeé, explained the visionary American artist, describing the New York centre he founded. Rooted in the basement are the art collections’ archives and library. The building is the trunk, the core of this artistic compound where the world’s most creative types live, rehearse and find inspiration. Wilson’s own cutting-edge art comes alive in a show at Villa Panza in Varese, Italy
The experimental theatre director Robert Wilson loves to fly. Sky high, the American gazes out at the wild blue yonder, down at his home state of Texas and at the wide world below. Yet since 1992, his creative outlet has been set in the soil of planet Earth: the Watermill Center near the town of Southampton on Long Island, just about two hours from New York City. This isn’t simply a house, nor a school. Wilson, a highly acclaimed, multi-talented artist, offers this description of the center he founded: «An international laboratory for creative thought. A place for exchanging ideas, open to artists in every field from around the world». When he began looking for a location for his creative think tank, Wilson had in mind a spot surrounded by nature. «In the 1960s, I visited Long Island and really liked the area. I have always been drawn to panoramas and light. Einstein said that light is the measurement of everything. Without light, the space doesn’t exist». The Watermill Center is located in a former telecommunications research facility. Today the center buzzes with artistic events. It’s many educational programs are partially supported by the annual summer benefit party which the American writer Jay McInerney dubbed «the Hamptons’ most fascinating and wildest party». Over the years, the Watermill Center has undergone many metamorphoses, taking its cue from Wilson’s limitless imagination. It’s a universe of slow, halting movements and tossed glances before stepping forward; spaces filled with stories, poetry, sounds; design as the perfect punctuation of an absolute aesthetic and controlling even the most miniscule details. «I have always envisioned the architecture here in different ways», said Wilson, who became international known as a theatre director for his collaboration with composer Philip Glass on the 1970s masterpiece, «The Watermill is like a tree», explained Wilson. «The basement – the roots – holds the art collections’ archives and the library. Then the main building acts as the trunk where there’s space for living, rehearsing, holding conferences and seminars and even preparing meals». Wilson’s approach to design is simple. «I begin with a blank page and start drawing. Then I listen to the drawing; it tells me what to do». This same philosophy is applied to center’s building. «The space should be flexible by nature, capable of hosting a wide range of activities. Here at Watermill, we live with art, both outside and inside the building. Most of the collection (5,000 pieces, dating back to 5,000 BC) is housed in the archives, but pieces can be removed and displayed in work areas as well as living spaces. Nothing is permanent». In the center’s large halls, every work dominates its allotted space, whether it’s an Asian sculpture, African ceramics, shoes that once belonged to the choreographer George Balanchine, a Gerrit Rietveld chair, books, photographs, films, documents and one, 10 or 100 seats designed by Robert Wilson himself. «The entire human experience and the diversity of traditions are stepping stones guiding us to the future». A similar spirit is alive in the exhibit which will be displayed at the villa in Varese, Italy until 15 October 2017. The celebrated are the main attraction with other surprises. «The ‘Video Portraits’ are like a window in a room. You can look out and see something. When you return, even after an hour, what you saw has changed slightly because of the light or the wind». In Villa Panza’s halls, Lady Gaga gazes out at the public from video screens. Meanwhile, on the villa’s grounds, a recording of Wilson slowly reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s is broadcast inside a small, wooden Shaker-style house tucked among the ancient trees. A conversation between Wilson and the renowned art collector. With the light as the leitmotif.
the Beach. Robert Wilson for Villa Panza. Tales Video Portraits Einstein on A House for Giuseppe Panza,