Performance is the operant word for Saturday evening’s benefit at the Watermill Center. What else would be expected from Robert Wilson? His fundraiser, on Saturday, July 29, is the artistic highlight of the Hamptons summer. How could it not be? Consider Wilson’s history as a transformational figure in the arts. He founded the Watermill Center, “a laboratory of inspiration and performance” in 1992.

Robert Wilson, who founded the Watermill Center in 1992.

A 50 Year History

In 1973 Clive Barnes in The New York Times tried to wrap his mind around Wilson’s 12-hour theatrical extravaganza at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, “The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin.” Barnes wrote: “Mr. Wilson calls his play an opera. That is the first of his conceits. … It is not a play either. Mr. Wilson’s work is best regarded as dance.”

It turns out Wilson could not be boxed in by Barnes’ definitions.

Wilson’s work was at the 1993 Venice Biennale. He won the Golden Lion for sculpture. Sculpture? That brought consternation among art critics. Louise Bourgeois was there with a stunning display. And judges would have been prescient to award the Golden Lion for sculpture to Yayoi Kusama that year. But Robert Wilson’s torso crawling out of cracked mud in a warehouse? Was it sculpture? The jury said it was “his dramatic perception of memory and object in a plastic space of great magic,”

Last year in an interview in Wallpaper magazine Wilson admitted, ‘I don’t think I’m very good at explaining my work, but it is something you experience.”

From bewildering Clive Barnes in 1973, to outraging art critics in 1993 to the warm embrace of audiences in the Hamptons. The world has caught up to his work. We now understand that Wilson gives us experiences, and we are eager for them. He will entertain us with spectacle or as Wallpaper said of his exhibit at last year’s Biennale, something “brilliantly bonkers.”

Work by the Guatemalan artist Regina José Galindo (Instagram)

To Dazzle Us

What’s in store? The event is called “The Body.” He has the cooperation of an army of international painters, sculptors, video artists, choreographers and actors. And backers including PFRANKMD by Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, Prada, Aperol and Campari America. There will also be time-based performances (we think that means dance, or we might be as unsure as Clive Barnes.)

Afra Al Dhaheri, from the United Arab Emirates, is a fiber artist (Instagram)

Featured artists include Thomas Anderson (United States), Yunseo Choi (Republic of Korea, Germany), Afra Al Dhaheri, a textile artist (United Arab Emirates). In addition: Evelyn Dugan (United States), Cecilia Xuetong Feng (China, Germany), and Regina José Galindo, who works with large-scale masks and large earthworks (Guatemala).

Other participating artists are Ola Maciejewska (Poland, France), Casilda Madrazo (Mexico), Katimari Niskala (Finland), Alessandro Di Pietro (Italy), Sorin Prodea (Romania, Germany). And Johan Rasumussen Sterner (Norway, Denmark), Ismael Reyes Romero (Chile), Anthony Roques, who does superimposed video images (France). And Dovydas Strimaitis, a choreographer, (Lithuania, France), Lyuba Todorova (Bulgaria), Robert Wilson (United States), and Agathe Vidal (France).

Works we show here indicate works artists did or are doing, sourced from their Instagram accounts. Works like these brought them to the Watermill Center’s attention. They do not indicate something that might be seen during “The Body.”

The choreographer Dovydas Strimaitis is from Lithuania and works in France. (Instagram)

There will be a performance in the outdoor theater at 8:30 (reserved seating for top ticket buyers) of  Wilson’s staging of “Ubu,” inspired by Alfred Jarry’s 1896 surrealist “Ubu Roi.”  If you have been to one of Wilson’s performances, you know dialog is not that important.

To recap: be there on Saturday night or you will regret it. The event begins at 6pm, with cocktails and a “floating dinner.”

Tickets are available here.

Reduced price tickets come in two levels. The $1,000 ticket for those 40 and under and comes with an invitation to the VIP dinner on Friday night with the artists. The $650 ticket for those 40 and under is only for the Saturday night experience.

The play, “Ubu,” will begin at 8:30 and last 90 minutes.