THE GHOST OF ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG
January 18, 2014 - April 5th, 2014
Original Score by Thomas Dougherty
Choreography by Autumn Knight
In collaboration with Da Camera of Houston
Robert Rauschenberg was born in Port Arthur, Texas on October 22nd, 1925. He died on Captiva Island, Florida May 12th, 2008 (we imagine him lying on the beach, sand covering half his face, clutching a driftwood branch under his left arm, carrying it like a sword...)
This is how it begins: The sky clears and the waves settle. The tide pulls out low and hard, the fullness of the moon stretches the water, its reflected light too bright. Something is wrong in this place. Beyond the second sand bar where there should only be water, a hidden sand bar emerges. The ghost appears.
THE GHOST OF ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG is a 20 minute performance piece, conceived by GAR and created in collaboration with Thomas Dougherty of Da Camera's Young Composer program, and mixed-media performance artist and current GAR resident, Autumn Knight. The piece is performed by Craig Hauschildt and Brandon Bell on percussion, with Autumn Knight dancing the part of The Ghost.
Our interest in creating a ghost story around the artist Robert Rauschenberg began with a quote we found of Rauschenberg linking his creative process with wade fishing.
"To be able to empty your head - I love that. That's why I like fishing. When I'm standing out there, up to my nipples in the Gulf of Mexico and I have some fish bait, there's always the possibility of the unexpected. And while I'm waiting for the unexpected - that fish that rarely comes by, a rogue fish that went crazy and left the school - the 'noncatching' of the fish becomes the focus. It opens my head up and thoughts can 'unpurposefully' swim though my brain."
The quote resonated with us, both in a creative sense (have you ever heard of a better metaphor for inspiration than a 'rogue fish'?) and in a regional sense - one walk along the Galveston seawall will give you a glimpse of many wade fishers, standing in the Gulf, up to their nipples. As a starting point, it gave us a frame of mind. We tried to listen to it, to take it seriously, and replicate it's structure. As our heads opened up and thoughts 'unpurposefully' swam through our brain, we found ourselves wading through Rauschenberg's biographies. It was here that we found our next gem.
Rauschenberg is taking classes at Black Mountain College, spending lots of time with Josef Albers. Albers has yet to like anything Rauschenberg has made, until he writes and performs a Nō theater piece. Everyone loves it, everything starts changing. A few weeks later he is covering pieces of paper with glue and burying them in the debris under the house, now even his paintings are getting good....
Any serious study of Nō Theater makes one thing certain - the best plays always involve a ghost. The plays including a ghost are the most stripped down, a pinnacle of formal perfection. And so, we set out to reimagine Rauschenberg's seminal Nō Theater piece, casting Rauschenberg himself as the ghost. Nō Theater is very strict in its representation of ghosts. In Arthur Waley's book "The Nō Plays of Japan: An Anthology," he states that while the outward appearance is that of a ghost, inside is "the heart of a man" and reminds us that "no one has ever seen a real ghost from the Nether Regions, (so) the actor may use his fancy, aiming only at the beautiful."
To view images from installation and performances of THE GHOST OF ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, please go here.