Robert Wilson b. 1941
Mr. Bojangles' Memory, Og Son of Fire (1991)
The two versions of this work are variations on a single theme, in which the music imposes a particular atmosphere depending on its own sonority. One of the versions is backed by a piano, while the other is constructed around blues compositions by Charles "Honi" Coles. Mr. Bojangles' Memory involves a large number of image inserts like Wilson's theater. From Og, the son of fire whose size seems to vary according to who he meets, to an immense woman in a spotted dress who tries to parry the balls thrown by a monkey, including the appearances of a 1920's tap-dancer and the saraband danced on his Panama hat, Mr. Bojangles' Memory is made up of a series of scenes without any apparent link: "Mr. Bojangles was a black tap-dancer from Harlem. He represents memory in the story. Og, meanwhile, is a prehistoric cave man. His meeting with Mr. Bojangles, an elegant dancer from the turn of the century, brings together poetic symbols and the meaning of this exposition lies in this meeting." The video was produced for the exhibition Mr. Bojangles' Memory, organized in 1992 at the Centre Georges Pompidou by the Musée National d'Art Moderne and the Ircam. The environmental context was designed to plunge the audience into the universe of Robert Wilson's creations (scenery/sculptures, theatrical space, video tapes, etc.). Reintroduced into this context, the tape takes on its full meaning. At the entrance to the exhibition, a wall of eight video screens recounts the story of Mr. Bojangles. The audience, immersed in the sound and video effects installed, walk through a town where forty video monitors serve as signposts. The videogram assumes the rhythm of the exhibition, with multiple images controlled by an imaginary remote control unit.

Dominique Garrigues

Robert Wilson in UbuWeb Sound