Photograph of the Golem from the performance Death, Destruction & Detroit II.
Robert Wison, 1987.
Robert Wilson is a visual artist and one of the leading international figures in experimental performance. Landmark works include Einstein on the Beach (1976), CIVIL warS (1984), and The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets (1991). Death, Destruction & Detroit II (1987) was produced at Berlin’s Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz. Wilson cited Franz Kafka as the work’s inspiration. The four-hour performance incorporated Kafka texts and included an eclectic cast of characters including Rudolf Hess, Son of Sam, a Chinese emperor, a wandering rabbi, a giant white rat, and a golem. Sitting on swivel stools, the audience experienced the action from all sides.
Constructed of papier-mâché made from Chinese and Japanese newspaper, Wilson’s golem wore an overcoat laced on the sides in black ribbon. During the performance, the wandering rabbi cut the golem’s lacings and removed the costume to reveal an actor wearing the same outfit. Writing about the production, Wilson states, “The piece followed no story, but was a series of images and text, which the audience freely associated in the work. It took place on nine stages which surrounded the audience, in sixteen scenes. In the third scene, one saw approximately fourteen actors on stage performing different rituals: a wedding, someone washing dishes, someone holding up a falling wall. One of the activities was the disassembly of the papier-mâché Golem-costumed figure. Often the visual elements of my play can be seen as works of art on their own, hence sculptural.”
Fairbrother, Trevor, ed. Robert Wilson’s Vision. New York: Harry N. Abrams; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1991.
Arthur Holmberg. The Theatre of Robert Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Shyer, Laurence. Robert Wilson and His Collaborators. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1989.
Stearns, Robert. Robert Wilson: From a Theater of Images. Cincinnatti: Contemporary Arts Center, 1980.
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