Contemporary Art @ Boğaziçi - Interview Project, 2012

ROBERT WILSON, 1941,Waco, TexasUSA


Yeliz ÇELEBİ (BU, History)


Undeniably the information in Wikipedia which says "[America]'s — or even the world's — foremost vanguard 'theater artist'" should be accepted as the just beginning of what can be said for Robert Wilson...On his way to reach today’s career he has gained lots of titles such as a choreographerperformer, paintersculptorvideo artist, and sound and lighting designer. However, probably as a theater artist who uses all arts and humanities in his works he is an idol.

Yeliz Ç.; 1.In 17-18 May of 1996 you came Turkey for to show your 'Persephone'. And it is interpreted like that;"A show originally conceived to be presented in outdoor and unconventional spaces, particularly venues of great visual and architectonic impact such as the Ancient Stadium of Delphi or the Saracen Fortress of Istanbul, the great flexibility of the scenic elements of this piece allow it to go into virtually any venue, traditional or not, of virtually any size." However, how would you describe your experience in Istanbul, in which city also your "Lady from the Sea" and 'THE DAYS BEFORE death, destruction & detroit III' works were represented to your audiences, with your own words?

R.B.:The last 2 works were presented in the opera in Istanbul, which was a formal two- dimensional space meaning that the audience was on one side and the actors on the other. With the space behind the actors hidden. The space was more flat. In the outdoor arena where Persephone was performed, the event could take place in 360 degrees. There were visual elements that happened in the back of the audience, to the front, right, left etc. So the actor’s as well as audience’s orientation of space was very different.

Yeliz Ç.; 2.Susan Sontag ,with whom you worked for "Lady from the Sea", said that “it has the signature of a major artistic creation. I can't think of any body of work as large or as influential.” for your artistic career. Throughout the time, body of people have been used as something that is utilised such as soldier, labour and so on. However, in today you are using it as an art material which seems not only aesthetic but also seems as it aims to give messages. Can we say that your works are also one of the signs of breakpoint in an art which have been just concentrated on the phenomena of aesthetic, beauty, goodness till today?

R.B.:The Avant-Guard is always rediscovering the classics. Socrates said that the baby was born knowing everything. That the learning process was the uncovering of the knowledge.

Yeliz Ç.; 3.As we know that in each summer at Watermill Center which is a 'laboratory for the arts and humanities in eastern Long Island brings together students and experienced professionals in a multi-disciplinary environment dedicated to creative collaboration.' And it is said that you are one of the professionals who attends this organization. In the light of this knowledge, I want to ask you that what does your first advice to your students during this organization?

R.B.:I think one has to enter into work with a question. That is to say, “What is it?” and not to say, “What something is”. If we know what it is what we are doing, there is no reason to do it. The reason is to say, “What is it?”

Yeliz Ç.; 4.You said that "I’ve just done what seemed right or natural to me" for your works during your conservation with Bruce Duffie. However, also you give huge importance on the details and perfection in your works as we can understand this from your these sentences "No, Jeff, I want wood chairs. If we make them out of aluminum, they won’t sound right when they fall over and hit the floor. They’ll sound like metal, not wood. It will sound false. Just make sure you get strong wood. And no knots”. Our culture also is imposing us to 'perfection'. Undeniably it is part of modernity. In these link what is your idea about modernity? Does it supply contribute to your art or does it cast shadow on your way to reach nature?

R.B.:I think one has to enter into work with a question. That is to say, “What is it?” and not to say, “What something is”. If we know what it is what we are doing, there is no reason to do it. The reason is to say, “What is it?”

 Yeliz Ç.; 5.Your theatres carries lots of signs from the phenomena of history, sociology, mythology, cutural antropology and so on. In your points of view, are they inseperable from eachother at least in your works?

R.B.:Yes. The French first called my work opera. They called it “Silent Opera” because there was no text. But I have always considered my work opera in the Latin sense of opera; meaning inclusive. All the arts and humanities are found in the theater: Painting, Sculpture. Architecture, Philosophy, Science, Mathematics, Anthropology etc…

In conclusion, Robert Wilson was very kind to me, he answered each of my questions very elaborately. He replied to my emails as quickly as possible. The reason why I got deeply effected by his art is that his art is the harmony of psychological, social and artistic phenomena from which I am interested in mostly. However, I hope that with the help of this interview, the reader will be enlightened on these phenomena in the shadow of Wilson’s viewpoint...