Film Synopsis

Is there a “before” and an “after” Robert Wilson? What makes him the “ultimate artist of our time?” The dream of perfection for a creator who doesn’t see any borders between his life and his artistic creation is a constant source of frustration. To Bob Wilson, whose energy is legendary, only accomplishment is an option. This is how he has created a life and career in the arts unlike anyone before him. His mystery and his genius are revered by some and criticized by others, but the fact remains that he has taken the lead of avant-garde theater and visual arts. Yet Bob Wilson himself would say that his success is a mix of chance and wonderful collaboration rather than the manifestation of genius. Without formal theater training, he gets his inspiration and original visual language from both his artistic contemporaries and those who have touched his life.

Beginning in the 1960’s through the early 70’s Bob Wilson surrounded himself with simply interesting people without any formal training in theater who shared his unique way of “seeing.”

The Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds was a group that encompassed all ages, races, social classes and political views that were present in the downtown New York Art scene. In 1971, Bob Wilson’s Deafman Glance was an astonishing assembly of images, rigor, humor, sobriety and minimalism encouraged by Aragon in a famous letter to Andre Breton. In 1975, Bob Wilson chose to answer the numerous European invitations and pursue a more professional level of theater, ending the Byrd Hoffman era.

This transformation along with his striking collaboration with Phillip Glass during the creation of Einstein on the Beach in 1976 brought him international success and a treasure of magnificent theatrical performances. But Bob Wilson’s interest in the birth of ideas through the collaboration of a talented, eclectic and visionary group was still a major part of his philosophy and an impetus for his quest to find a location where he could again rebuild a home in a natural environment for his artistic family.

The summers following the purchase of the Watermill Center were concentrated on intense workshops with artists from all over the world in preparation for the benefit to raise money to renovate the building. (Newly restored and never before seen archival footage of the rehearsals of his stage productions and insightful interviews combined original footage of his most recent works are a chronicle of the creative process of this inventor of forms and sounds in the performing and visual arts)

With the majority of governmental funds going to the war and the American culture’s general apathy towards the avant-garde, it seemed impossible to find the necessary means and convince donors to give their resources for the creation of a center for the Arts and Humanities. It would have been easier to create it in Europe where Bob Wilson is recognized and the governmental funds are more accessible, but Bob Wilson is American, the United States his country, and evidently the word “impossible” is what motivates him to action.

The summer of 2006 was the official inauguration of the Watermill Center witnessed by a crowd of guest who commemorated the opening of the building. The center opened its doors to the public and the young artists who followed Robert Wilson for more than a decade to aide him in realizing his goal celebrated his success. At last the Watermill Center was able to invite artists in residence year round.

The following fall and spring seasons, the center brought various exciting new projects without Wilson’s physical presence yet in the same spirit of interdisciplinary artistic creation that he always encourages. Then during the summer Bob Wilson returned and focused on new workshops and preparation of the benefit with the artists in residence.

In reality the construction of the building itself was only one of the numerous steps to make the dream come true. Now the effort is to discover and invite those that will change the artistic landscape of tomorrow as well as set up a financial structure that will ensure the center’s existence well beyond Robert Wilson himself.

As Robert Wilson states, it was Andre Malraux’s understanding that “science can tell the time frame a society lived but only art can tell what was important to that society and the people who exist within it. Art is our gateway into the hearts and minds of past, present and future cultures. On the stage is where the greatest battles between the current ideals are waged. Because of these facts, it is our duty to continue and preserve art of all nations.” The Watermill Center, Bob Wilson’s dream, is a step in that direction.