On Saturday June 20, 2009, an immensely talented group of friends worked with me to present an event at Robert Wilson's Watermill Center, based on our residency spanning several months. The work traced connections between Robert Wilson’s secluded artistic laboratory and the labyrinthine writing of Raymond Roussel, a posthumously celebrated French writer of process-generated literature. The Ariadne’s thread that linked Roussel and Wilson passed among disparate agents, including a photo of their mutual admirer, Louis Aragon, and the theatrical reverence that both gentlemen hold for portraiture, extremely durational process and the ritual totems of non-modern cultures.
The collaboration was not without its tensions and ambivalences. To say the least, it was challenging to work within Robert Wilson's highly controlled modernist estate (even the trees are forced to grow at 90-degree angles). Surrounded as we were by the evidence of Wilson's primitivist collecting habits, our group had to negotiate fault lines between creativity and oppression, white and black, colonizer and colonized—a historical dialectic that is part of any engagement with the avant-garde and its inheritors.