«Collector of light»

Laudatory speech for Robert Wilson
by Thomas Oberender

Weimar, Stadtschloss, Award ceremony Goethe Medal 2014

German Version: «Sammler des Lichts. Laudatio auf Robert Wilson», in: Der Tagesspiegel, 24.8.2014, Berlin



I – Goethe and Wilson
What links the two; Goethe, the poet, privy councillor, draughtsman, art theorist and naturalist with the director, playwright, painter, lighting designer, stage designer, video artist and architect Robert Wilson? Is it the universality of their interests and fields? Both are, as we say today, intermedia artists who combine and consolidate work in a variety of media: poetry and theatre, the drawn image and scenery, encounters of natural sciences with the logic of dreams and myth.

Both made impacts beyond their own cultural groups and made their boundaries more permeable, both were agents of dialogue, interpreters in one way or another. Goethe absconded from a cultural climate that we today call »Eurocentric” and drew eyes eastward in his search for »world literature.” Robert Wilson grew up in a society in which racial segregation was the rule and became a teacher, trainer and artist who brought together in his work that which divided society. It may be a coincidence that the introverted mayor’s son Wilson Junior quietly and loyally befriended the son of a black maid in Waco, Texas. He remained this child to whom a world opened as a result of deep insights and his will for freedom. Like Goethe, Wilson is a figure to whom people pilgrimage, who is style defining, something that became fashion, a cosmos. Goethe needed as little sleep as Wilson, who, creatively speaking, works uncompromisingly, driven by endless diligence and boundless ambition.