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Japanese theatre and fine artisanal European traditions take the stage at Homo Faber

Iconic American director and visual artist Robert Wilson alludes to his groundbreaking 1993 staging of Madama Butterfly to evoke, with his signature lighting, sound, costumes, the metier of theatre.

Portrait of the American director and visual artist, Robert Wilson - Laïla Pozzo©Michelangelo Foundation

• Stage objects on display include artworks made by Japanese master artisans such as the exquisitely lacquered “WAITING” chair featured in Madama Butterfly

• An immersive experience for visitors in the 1960s Gandini swimming pool and garden, masterfully transformed into a mediative and suprising suspended space that references the stage design of Madama Butterfly

• Drama comes to life with Frida Parmeggiani’s original costumes and video portraits of famed choreographer Suzushi Hanayagi, from a 400-year lineage of Japanese performers

In an evocative exhibition at Homo Faber entitled WAITING with peace and darkness, Robert Wilson, the iconic American director and visual artist, reveals the inspiration of Japan’s great traditions in his theatrical productions, and in particular, his 1993 staging of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Opera in Paris. Visitors will experience Wilson’s theatrical genius as he transforms the space, a former 1960s swimming pool, into a dramatic stage with his signature use of lighting, sound and many more visual effects.

Visitors will enter a suspended space, rich in visual and artisanal references, articulated so as to create a sense of peace and awe. On display are stage objects created by master Japanese craftsmen, such as the magnificent “WAITING” chair in which Butterfly sits, which was lacquered using the traditional technique and is stored in a custom box as beautiful as the chair itself.

Also on display are pieces of Japanese origins, the stunning sculptural costumes designed by Frida Parmeggiani as well as ink drawings by Wilson himself. The exhibition also features video portraits of Suzushi Hanayagi, who choreographed the 1993 opera and collaborated with Wilson on more than 15 major productions. As a descendant of the Hanayagi family, an old lineage of performers, she was trained in the traditions of Nō and Kabuki theatre and Bunraku puppetry.

Although some assumed that Wilson’s early work was influenced by Japanese theatre, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that he traveled there for a month, a visit that he says changed his life forever. “I met Hideo Kanze, the oldest member of the Nō theatre, and Tamasabura, a young superstar in the Kabuki theatre, as well as Hiroshi Teshigahara, a filmmaker and master flower arranger, and many others”, Wilson writes. “I had never before experienced the theatre of Japan, but it was a validation of everything I was doing in my own work.”

It was mind-opening, he says, to become acquainted with Asian culture, including the concept of yin and yang, which recognises the duality in nature and all things, and the idea that two is actually one. This was in the back of his mind like a footnote when envisioning the exhibition for Homo Faber, he says.

At the same time, Wilson says, when one goes to an exhibition, theatre or opera, it is the experience that is key. “It’s not something you intellectualize,” he says.

“I think it’s important to go in with an open mind. And try to empty your head of any preconceived ideas and to experience what is in front of you.” – Robert Wilson

The Waiting Chair “La Chaise D’attente” - ©All rights reserved WAITING with peace and darkness is set in the the ex Gandini swimming pool. It is one of 17 exhibitions that comprise Homo Faber, organised by Michelangelo Foundation.

Notes for editors
Homo Faber
Crafting a more human future
Fondazione Giorgio Cini, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
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Homo Faber is the main event organised by the Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship, an international non-profit organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland, which was set up to celebrate and preserve master craftsmanship around the world and strengthen its connection to design. Rooted in a tradition of culture and excellence and in the realities and challenges of today’s global economy, the foundation aims to support those who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of master craftsmanship and to foster a new cultural movement built around the values that are essential for their work. The Foundation focuses on Europe as a starting point for its activities, in recognition that craftsmanship has been a vital part of the economic and cultural fabric of the region for centuries, providing both a rich heritage and a competitive advantage in a global world.

Robert Wilson
Texas-born Robert Wilson is one of the world’s foremost theatre directors and visual artists. His works for the stage unconventionally incorporate a wide variety of artistic media including dance, movement, lighting, sculpture, music and text. His productions have been acclaimed by audiences and critics worldwide, and he has won numerous awards including the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale, two Premio Ubu Awards and an Olivier Award, as well as a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize. His drawings, paintings and sculptures have been exhibited internationally and are held in private and public collections around the world.

Collaborating on Homo Faber with the Michelangelo Foundation are partner organisations that share its vision including: the Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte, the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, and The Japan Foundation.

Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte
The Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte is a private, non-profit institution founded in 1995. Based in Milan, it promotes cultural, scientific and educational initiatives for the protection and diffusion of artistic crafts. The Fondazione Cologni’s mission is to inspire a “new Renaissance” of the artistic crafts and rescue them from the threat of extinction. Many of its initiatives focus on young people and training future generations of artisans.

Fondazione Giorgio Cini
The Fondazione Giorgio Cini is a non-profit cultural institution based in Venice, Italy. Established by Vittorio Cini in 1951 with the aim of creating an international cultural centre re-integrating the San Giorgio Maggiore Island into the life of Venice and the region, today it is an important centre of humanistic studies and encourages the creation and development of educational, social, cultural and artistic institutions in the surrounding territory.

The Japan Foundation
The Japan Foundation, established in 1972, in Tokyo develops international cultural exchange programmes globally. The foundation’s aim is to promote Japanese culture to the world through programmes and activities in the following categories: art, cultural exchange, Japanese-language education and Japanese studies. The foundation has a global network, with 25 overseas branches in 24 countries. As part of their cultural programme, the foundation offers successful applicants support in the form of grants, research scholarships and training opportunities.

Suzushi Hanayagi by Robert Wilson Curator_Ceramics by Taizo Kuroda Artisan©Robert Wilson_Lovis Dengler Ostenrik Costume Madama Butterfly©Franck Evin The waiting chair_Robert Wilson Curator©All rights reserved Robert Wilson Curator_Laila Pozzo©Michelangelo Foundation