Robert Wilson and Gunpowder Park

In May 2006 legendary American artist and theatre director Robert Wilson was commissioned by the Gunpowder Park team to develop a new piece of site-specific work.

Robert Wilson Gunpowder Park

Since the late 1960s, Robert Wilson has decisively shaped the look of theater and opera, installation art, video, and sculpture. Through his signature use of light, his investigations into the structure of a simple movement, and the classical rigor of his scenic and furniture design, Wilson has continuously articulated the force and originality of his vision. Wilson’s close ties and collaborations with leading artists, writers, and musicians continue to fascinate audiences worldwide. We were interested in Wilson’s work as it related to Gunpowder Park through his experimental interdisciplinary Watermill Center, ‘a laboratory for performance’ still in construction in 2005.  Watermill integrates performing arts practice with resources from the humanities, research from the sciences, and inspiration from the visual art

 Wilson enjoys international acclaim for his work and his methodology. The Gunpowder Park workshops were remarkable at the time and are one of the few interdisciplinary projects Wilson has undertaken in the UK.  

On the morning of May 3rd 2006 17 creative individuals, from 7 countries came together for the first time in Gunpowder Park to construct a concept for a new, large scale, site-specific, collaborative atwork.

We were all attracted by the chance to work with Robert Wilson, his particular vision and working practice, the landscape and scale of Gunpowder Park, the diverse talents of the Workshop participants, the lure of leaping off the deep end – and the certainty that whatever did transpire over the next 4 days would be memorable. Thanks to Sherry Dobbin, who has worked with Wilson before, and suggested he consider meeting us, Wilson first experienced Gunpowder Park on a blistering hot May day in 2005 during a fleeting visit, craftily carved out of his schedule of international projects – operas, installations, the Watermill Centre and more. Wilson met the Landscape&Arts Network Services/Haring Woods / Gunpowder Park team and surveyed the wide open spaces of the Park in its lush, mid-summer state.

Haring Woods and Wilson share a commitment to the multi-disciplinary creative approach. We also work with the knowledge that the arts are a mechanism for change – both social change and physical regeneration. We both collaborate with international practitioners to make work for our diverse social and ethnic communities and audiences. And, our two sites, Gunpowder Park and the Watermill Center shared a similar heritage of experimentation. With many shared interests and objectives we soon agreed that the prospect of a collaboration between  Gunpowder Park, Wilson and Watermill should progress.

Woods and Wilson selected and invited the Stage A Workshop participants who would prove their commitment to the exchange and distribution of their ideas – about looking and thinking beyond boundaries, social and political, the boundaries of art and the physical boundaries of Gunpowder Park. They were interested in the way we live, our and their environment and our and their relationship with others. They were about looking out from Gunpowder Park to the rest of the world and bringing the world to Gunpowder Park, ensuring the arts would always be integral to everyday life.

Download the Robert Wilson / Gunpowder Park Workbook



“The strength of the workshop is its diversity. We had no single aesthetic or ideology. And this should continue to be part of the culture of Gunpowder Park… I try to listen to the land, listen to my collaborators, form megastructures and invite people to participate.”

“What I have done is create a megastructure. This project is open for people from different fields to participate, whether they are artists, a political scientist such as Benjamin Barber or an anthropologist such as Ida Nicolaisen. I hope that we can establish more connections with the UK and the US in this project on many different levels.”  

“We are trying to create a kind of ribbon around the world, so as visitors move through the landscape, they get a sense not only of their backyard but of the wider world beyond. We would like to connect Gunpowder Park with the Watermill Center and other sites all over the world.”    Robert Wilson

Gunpowder Park at Wilson’s Watermill Center, Long Island, New York July 2005

A selection of drawings by Robert Wilson for the Gunpowder Park project