A Hamptons Art Affair So Sublime, Mother Nature Showed Up “the BODY: The Watermill Center Annual Summer Benefit”

A Hamptons Art Affair So Sublime, Mother Nature Showed Up “the BODY: The Watermill Center Annual Summer Benefit”

By Hillary Latos

On Saturday, July 29, 2023, The Watermill Center hosted "the BODY: The Watermill Center Annual Summer Benefit," which celebrated art and creative experimentation in support of the organization's year-round Artist Residency and Education programming.

Notable attendees included: Daniel Arsham (Artist); Kelly Behun (Interior Designer); Karolina Blaberg (Karolina Blaberg Foundation, The Watermill Center Board); William Campbell (Chairman, The Watermill Center Board) & Christine Wächter Campbell (Winston Wächter Fine Art Gallery); Lucinda Childs (Choreographer); Blythe Danner (Actress); Lisa Ehrenkranz (Lincoln Center); Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank (PFRANKMD); Coco Fusco (Artist); Cuba Gooding Jr. (Actor); Audrey Gruss (Founder, Hope for Depression Research Foundation); Emilia Kabokov (Artist); Wendy Keys (Film Director); Helen King (President, Van Cleef & Arpels); Jennifer Koh (Violinist);

Robert Longo (Artist); Lisa Perry (Designer); Tatiana Platt & Campion Platt (Architect); Polina Proshkina (Fashion Blogger), Katharine Rayner (Philanthropist), Gabrielle Richardson (Model, Activist); Legacy Russell (The Kitchen); Katharina Otto-Bernstein (Filmmaker) & Nathan Bernstein (Gallerist); Anastasiya Siro (House of the Nobleman); Helen Lee Warren (The Watermill Center Board) & David Warren (CEO, DW Partners); Robert Wilson (The Watermill Center Founder & Artistic Director, Theater Director and Visual Artist); and Young Paris (Singer).

As the clear blue skies and sun that dominated the majority of the evening suddenly gave way to rain, Artistic Director Robert Wilson was heard saying, "It is perfect", as the downpour soaked the newspaper-laden set of "Ubu." He continued, "I came to this area to be closer to nature!"

Those who withstood the rainstorm enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime performance of "Ubu" by Robert Wilson, who, after the rain took out the sound system, narrated the production live—a first for both The Watermill Center and Wilson himself. Performed by The Watermill Center's summer Artists-in-Residence,  "Ubu"  is  a  surreal  reflection of paradoxical inequalities throughout history and the modern day. Dancing between drizzles and downpours, performers and audiences alike came together to brave the elements and prove that, after all, the show must go on.

Originally presented at the Es Baluard Museum in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, "Ubu" is presented by invitation of Imma Prieto, Director of Es Baluard Museum. This is the first time one of Wilson's works has been shown in New York in nearly a decade.

"The Annual Summer Benefit is the only moment when our laboratory becomes a stage celebrating performance in a way that is unique to The Watermill Center. We situate the artists and their work at the center of the experience," shares Managing Director, Elise Herget.

The 2023 Annual Summer Benefit centered on the body's role in art making. Regina Jose Galindo's "SIREN" performance, in collaboration with a dozen mechanics working alongside the artist, presented a natural dialogue with her exhibition, "The Body," which debuted concurrently at The Watermill Center, tracing her twenty-year career as a performance artist and poet.

"The spectacle of seeing a team of mechanics slowly dismantle a decommissioned police cruiser while Regina sat passively inside created a profound significance from simple acts. Watching the roof of the vehicle being removed or sparks flying as the chassis was cut in two was deeply captivating, and that was just one of nearly twenty works on display," Herget shared.

"The Body" is on view through October 15, 2023 and will include a special talkback with Regina Jose Galindo on August 12th at The Watermill Center's Artists Table Brunch series.

Highlights included Afra Al Dhaheri's "Tangle, Untwist, REWIND: Sweat For Years To Come" exploring hair as a mode of enduring labor to conform with cultural ideologies of the female body, unpacking associations of women's beauty and social presentation. Ola Maciejewska's "The Second Body" featured performer Leah Marojevič's powerful manipulation of large melting ice sculptures across her bare torso, interrogating the relationship between physical space, natural objects, and the human form. Grammy award-winning violinist, Jennifer Koh, performed "Bach: Selections From Six Solo Sonatas and Partitas for Violin", which brought Bach's sonatas and partitas to life, resonating throughout The Center's interior.

Guests were also invited to view a new exhibition by Italian artist Alessandro Di Pietro. Di Pietro's "Ghostwriting Paul Thek: Time Capsules and Reliquaries", curated by Peter Benson Miller and Cornelia Mattiacci, engages with The Center's collection of works by the late Paul Thek to imagine a history in which Thek did not die prematurely, continuing the late artist's practice posthumously. "Ghostwriting Paul Thek" is on view through August 18, 2023.

"the BODY", curated 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). The artistic process behind works featured during the Benefit was uniquely emphasized, as the majority of the works were realized on-site by the artists in the weeks leading up to the benefit.

"the BODY" was presented by Van Cleef & Arpels, and honored American artist Simone Forti and the late philanthropist Baroness Nina von Maltzahn. Generous additional support for "the BODY" was provided by PFRANKMD by Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, Prada, and Aperol and Campari America.  The  evening  celebrated The Watermill Center as a world-renowned interdisciplinary laboratory for the arts and humanities, and its 30+ year association with performance. Refreshments were provided by Aperol and Campari America, and Wölffer Estate Vineyard.

For  more  information  about  The  Watermill  Center,  its  Artists-in-Residence,  and  its  upcoming public programs, visit www.watermillcenter.org.

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