Absolute Wilson

Katharina Otto-Bernstein

Otto-Bernstein's biography of avant-garde theater artist Robert Wilson is perforce rich in visual imagery extensively documenting Wilson's life and major works, such as The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin, Einstein on the Beach, and the CIVIL wars. The text, again most fittingly, is less informative than its visual complement. Instead of providing a framework for understanding Wilson, Otto-Bernstein knits together an oral history of him, from his Waco, Texas, childhood in the forties and fifties to his sixties off-Broadway professional ascent to international success as a director of contemporary and classic operas in the eighties and nineties. Providing the comments are family, colleagues, collaborators, and members of Wilson's theater troupe, the Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds. The resulting book often feels more like a film script, which is hardly surprising, since it is adapted from Otto-Bernstein's documentary film Absolute Wilson. Still, the beautifully designed, visually stunning volume provides a fine introduction to the entrancing, often enigmatic work of an artist who once said, "I make theater, not meaning." Jack Helbig

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