AO On-Site – Water Mill, NY: The Watermill Center Annual Benefit, July 29th, 2023

August 18th, 2023

Regina José Galindo,  (installation view)
Regina José Galindo, SIREN (installation view)

On Saturday, July 29, 2023, The Watermill Center hosted “the BODY: The Watermill Center Annual Summer Benefit,” celebrating creative experimentation in support of the organization’s year-round Artist Residency and Education programming. This year’s benefit centered on the body’s role in art making and featured exhibitions and performances by a dynamic roster of international artists before culminating with a showing of Artistic Director Robert Wilson’s “Ubu.”

In the courtyard of the center’s wooded property,  situated on ten acres of Shinnecock ancestral territory on Long Island’s East End, Guatemalan visual artist and poet, Regina José Galindo, premiered her gripping performance piece, SIRENOver the course of 2 hours and 20 minutes, a team of 12 auto mechanics disassembled a decommissioned police vehicle while Galindo sat quietly in the backseat. While sirens howled, the vehicle was cut apart – its steel frame sliced down the middle with sparks flying. Expressions of alarm and violence were juxtaposed with Galindo’s passive body. The work summoned up issues surrounding law enforcement and police brutality, and was conceived by the artist in response to a study from The University of Chicago around incidents of police abuse of power in the United States. 

In dialogue with SIREN is Galindo’s exhibition in the center’s galleries, titled The Body, – on view through October 15, 2023. The collection includes drawings, photographs and video works tracing her twenty-year career as a performance artist and poet. A 2005 recipient of the Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion award for young artists, Galindo, who lives and works in Guatemala, frequently explores systemic inequalities and human rights abuses that persist in the “new” Guatemala, digging into the ethical implications of social violence associated with gender and racial discrimination, and often employing the body as a starting point to delve into these complexities.

Additional highlights from the annual event included Grammy award-winning violinist, Jennifer Koh, performing “Bach: Selections From Six Solo Sonatas and Partitas for Violin,” filling the room’s high ceilings with Bach’s echo.

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Ola Maciejewska, The Second Body (installation view)

Polish choreographer and Water Mill resident Ola Maciejewska presented “The Second Body,” which featured performer Leah Marojevič melting ice sculptures across her bare skin in an elegant and striking dance between earth’s elements and the human form. 

The evening’s final event was a performance designed by Founder and Artistic Director of the Watermill Center, Robert Wilson. Titled “Ubu” (a riff on Alfred Jarry’s 1896 play, Ubu Roi), and performed by The Watermill Center’s summer Artists-in-Residence,  “Ubu” is described by the center as a “surreal reflection of paradoxical inequalities throughout history and the modern day.”

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A performance by Anthony Roques

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Evelyn Dugan performs on the grounds of the Watermill Center

In a dramatic turn of events, a downpour descended just as the performance kicked off, taking down the sound system. In turn, the audience was gifted with a once-in-a-lifetime, live narration of the performance by Robert Wilson himself.

Originally presented at the Es Baluard Museum in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, “Ubu” was presented by invitation of Imma Prieto, Director of Es Baluard Museum. This marked the first time one of Wilson’s works was shown in New York in nearly a decade.

The center’s annual summer event, curated this year by Noah Khoshbin, included projects and presentations by The Watermill Center’s summer Artists-in-Residence, including: Thomas  Anderson  (United States), Yunseo Choi (Republic of Korea, Germany), Bonnie Comley (United States), Afra Al Dhaheri (United Arab Emirates), Evelyn Dugan (United States), Cecilia Xuetong Feng (China, Germany), Simone Forti (United States), Regina José Galindo (Guatemala), Marianna Kavallieratos (Greece), Jennifer Koh (United States), Ola Maciejewska (Poland, France), Casilda Madrazo (Mexico), Leah Marojević (United Kingdom), Katimari Niskala (Finland), Alessandro Di Pietro (Italy), Sorin Prodea (Romania, Germany), Johan Rasumussen Sterner (Norway, Denmark), Ismael Reyes Romero (Chile), Anthony Roques (France), Dovydas Strimaitis (Lithuania, France), Lyuba Todorova (Bulgaria), Robert Wilson (United States), and Agathe Vidal (France).

– G. Suter