World According To… Robert Wilson

Sunday, June 12, 2016

AVENUE’s back-page column asks New York notables our version of the questionnaire made famous by Marcel Proust

After more than 50 years of working in the theater and numerous awards, stage director and playwright Robert Wilson knows how to create a sense of mystery: enthralling the audiences in his avant-garde productions, his experimental literary creations and his expectation-defying visual artwork. His illustrious career reads like a résumé of a certain enigmatic Ian Fleming secret agent: founder and artistic director of the Watermill Center, choreographer, performer, painter, sculptor, video artist, sound and lighting designer. He collaborated with fashion design duo Viktor & Rolf and did a series of video portraits with Lady Gaga. Wilson is a man so rivetingly Delphic that to celebrate his 70th birthday International Flavors & Fragrances created a new scent titled Black Rider in homage. Here, Wilson reveals his Hamptons essentials and secret insights for a summer to remember.

What’s your relationship to the Hamptons? I was first on Long Island when I was an assistant to Jerome Robbins and he had rented a house in Water Mill in 1967. In subsequent years I used to visit Christophe de Menil, who had a house in Amagansett. In 1974 I made videotapes with Ralph Hilton for an installation I did called Spaceman. In 1975, I spent two weeks in Christophe’s house, where I designed the sets for Einstein on the Beach.

What is your first Hamptons memory? Going to the beach in Water Mill with Jerome Robbins.

What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at your Hamptons home? I rearrange the rooms.

What’s your favorite thing to do in the Hamptons? Go for a walk early in the morning.

What’s your signature drink? Vodka.

What is your favorite place in the Hamptons and why? My apartment in the Watermill Center, because I consider it my home.

What is your favorite part about living in the Hamptons? The light.

What’s your biggest extravagance? Collecting art.

Who is the most interesting Hamptonite you know? Barbara Slifka.

What’s on your summer playlist? Prince.

Describe a perfect summer day. To work all day at the Watermill Center and then share a meal and some red wine with the Watermill summer participants.

Who’s your favorite dinner companion? Maren Otto.

What is your favorite beach read? Edmund Carpenter’s Patterns That Connect.

Which work of art changed your life? The dance works of George Balanchine.

What’s the coolest thing in your house right now? A typing of Christopher Knowles’s.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Martha Graham. She said, “If you work long enough and hard enough, you will find something.”

What do you want to be when you grow up? A potter.

What’s your present state of mind? Upbeat after having worked with a wonderful cast of Brazilian actors and musicians.

What’s next for you? Performing Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape in Macau. 


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