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Robert Wilson: Video 50 

Curated by Mitra Khorasheh

signs and symbols, NY

August 31, 2018

 

signs and symbols presents a screening day of Robert Wilson’s Video 50, as part of artists & allies

Video 50 is an extraordinary video sketchbook, a highly original, visually dramatic and frequently humorous collection of one hundred abbreviated "episodes" produced for television. Unfolding as a series of thirty-second vignettes, this enigmatic essay in style is characterized by a deadpan theatricality, symbolist imagery, surrealist juxtapositions and repetition of key visual motifs. Indelible images, precisely composed — a man teetering above a waterfall, a floating chair, a winking eye, a parrot against the New York skyline — are accompanied by an "architectural" sound score that includes spoken "phonetic patterns" rather than words. Fusing his surprising visual logic and rhythms with unexpected temporal manipulations, Wilson creates a work of startling wit and poetry.

Music: Allan Lloyd. Lighting: Renato Berta. Produced by Robert Boner and Caroline Arrighi. A coproduction of Film and Video Collectif and Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF). With: Lucinda Childs, Philippe Chemin, Laura Condominas, Robert Wilson.

Courtesy Robert Wilson and Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York

Called "America's most important dramatist" by Eugene Ionesco, Robert Wilson is a major figure in the international avant-garde theater. Since 1965, Wilson has written, designed and directed a distinguished body of work for stage, opera, dance, film and video, and has also produced drawings, prints and furniture/sculpture.

As one of the most original presences in contemporary theater, he has created such acclaimed works as Einstein on the Beach (1976), an operatic collaboration with Philip Glass. Wilson's highly stylized "theater of imagery" is characterized by a concern with spectacle, temporality, nonverbal communication, visual collage, architectural stagecraft, and idiosyncratic performers.

Transposing these theatrical strategies to video, in 1978 he began producing innovative works for television, including Video 50 (1976) and Deafman Glance (1981), a televisual adaptation of his landmark five-hour theatrical production of the same title. Resonating with his distinctive visual stylization, Wilson's enigmatic tales are rendered with a spare, controlled elegance and a precisely composed use of startling symbolist imagery, ritualized gestures, and hyperreal design and lighting. Time and space, light and movement take the place of spoken language. Envisioning sinister fantasies and vivid inner lives as metaphorical universes, Wilson's haunting, minimalist dramas unfold with the surreal poetry of waking dreams.

 

Robert Wilson was born in 1941. He received a B.F.A. from Pratt Institute and apprenticed with architect Paolo Soleri. Wilson is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a 1971 Drama Desk Award, a 1975 Tony nomination, a 1986 Pulitzer Prize nomination, and Obie Awards in 1974 and 1986. He has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the National Film Institute, and the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities. He is also the recipient of a United States/Japan Exchange Fellowship. Wilson's theatrical productions have been staged around the world, and his videotapes have been exhibited at festivals and institutions including Kunsthaus, Zurich; San Sebastian Festival, Spain; American Film Institute National Video Festival, Los Angeles; First National Video Festival, Madrid; and the Belgrade International Theater Festival in Film (BITEF). In 1991, a retrospective exhibition of his drawings, paintings, video work, and furniture/sculpture was presented at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Wilson lives in New York.