Deafman Glance – Robert Wilson (1971)

“When Robert Wilson’s work  first appeared internationally it was generally seen from a single and limited viewpoint—as a return to the image. Wilson was understood as a proponent of two-dimensional theater, of theater to be looked at only. This was because he came into the public eye at the beginning of the ’70s, when the figurative gesture ruled supreme on the stage, and the body, in its expressive entirety, was at the center of a tendency to involve the spectator. But Wilson’s push was to stretch the visual; it was a recuperation of the grand deliriums of the Surrealist painters, basing dramatic narrative on a simple sequence of backdrops and the unfolding of a tableau vivant, immobile yet in continuous and unstoppable evolution. … Time is a determining factor in musical discourse, too, and musical organization has determined structure in Wilson’s work as early on as Deafman Glance, 1970 (Iowa City, Iowa; music collage by Igor Demjen. Restaged in 1971 in various cities including Paris, Amsterdam, and Rome). This work introduced Wilson to Europe and consequently was the basis for much of the mythology about him, despite the fact that it was an essentially mute performance—that is, the universe of the protagonist to whom the entire performance is dedicated is a mute one. The deaf actor of Deafman Glance was truly a deaf-mute, just as Christopher Knowles was not simulating his psychophysical uniqueness in Wilson’s collaboration with Philip Glass, Einstein on the Beach, 1976 (staged in Paris, Vienna, and New York, among other places; to be restaged this fall at the Brooklyn Academy of Music). Wilson, who was particularly uncommunicative during his own adolescence, never presumes to instruct these actors in an impossible and not very persuasive ‘normalization’; rather, he fully accepts their natures and asks for their contributions as coauthors. Thus in Deafman Glance Raymond Andrews’ participation becomes the unpredictable element within the disciplined rhythms of a visual score which alternates or contrasts accelerations, freezes, drawn-out slowdowns, fast tempos, and dead stops. …”
BAM: Deafman Glance, February 25, 1971, March 5, 1971
Deafman Glance (1971)
Robert Wilson’s Deafman Glance
YouTube: (Deafman Glance) 1981 45:24

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