VOOM. Portraits by Robert Wilson
October 2 - December 2, 2007
From October 2 through December 2, the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation was hosting an exhibition by Robert Wilson, the internationally renowned and multi-talented master of contemporary art. This celebrated American theatrical director, set designer, artist, and sculptor has been recognized with a multitude of prizes and awards in the most diverse fields, including the Guggenheim award, the Rockefeller Foundation award, the Golden Lion award in sculpture at the Venice Biennale, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish award for lifetime achievement, the Prize Europe for the Theatre (Taormina), and the National Design Award.
Not too long ago (in 2005), the Bolshoi Theater put on his production of Madame Butterfly by Puccini. Now he's come to Russia in a form that's completely new for the Russian public — as a visual artist.
"VOOM Portraits," an exhibition of 25 video portraits that Wilson filmed using VOOM technology, was on display in the halls of the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation. The technology of creating these portraits is held in strict secret, and they can only be shown on specially created vertical monitors, which alone is a reason for attention. But at the same time, the accepted genres for Wilson's exhibition — "video art" or "video installation" — are hardly a clear description of the portraits. In no way does this unique video technology replace creativity in Wilson's work — rather, it serves as a means of expressing his artistic concept.
Descriptions such as "live paintings" or "slow portraits," used frequently by the press, are a fairly accurate representation of Wilson's art from the outside. But as Wilson himself has said in numerous interviews, "it's how you fill in the form – that's what's important"; "Both theater and video are formality, it is in video portraits that emotion lies".
Wilson's work includes portraits of Brad Pitt, Isabella Rosselini, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Isabelle Huppert, and other famous people, as well as a few animals. Each portrait is filmed as a 3-12 minute, logically complete or thematically endless video sequence, and is played in an infinite loop. Wilson's characters act out theatrical scenes, merging with the image that the artist believes most adequately expresses their internal selves. Elegant and dramatic costumes, makeup and external attributes, an incommunicable game of light and spellbinding "immobility of barely noticeable movement" all create a magical attractiveness in the images.
It seems that Wilson's entire body of work is subservient to special laws of the philosophical search for truth in the contradictory and paradoxical. He is interested in movement and fixedness, in sound and silence. This probably has something to do with Wilson's long enthusiasm for Japanese culture — specifically, traditional Japanese Noh theater with its philosophical unfinishedness and not-so-European technics.
Wilson's portraits are a new reality of contemporary art that takes East and West, ultramodern and traditional, classic and avant-garde, high art and pop culture, and unites them under a single artistic style.