“We recognize Robert Wilson as an internationally respected figure whose work offered us new interpretations of German culture,” said the Goethe Medal Conferment Commission in their nomination of the American director. Robert Wilson was born in Waco, Texas in 1941, studied business economics, architecture and stage design and, since the 1960s, has made a mark on the world’s stages with his extraordinary productions, which are always a combination of dance, movement, light, sculpture, music and words.
Robert Wilson also began working in Germany early in his career; many of this works premiered here and gave important stimuli to German theatre. Wilson re-discovered many plays by German writers such as Heiner Müller and Tankred Dorst in his own manner and rendered plays and material by Büchner, Brecht and Strauss for the international, contemporary theatre. This made Robert Wilson a protagonist of German-American cultural dialogue in recent decades. Today, Wilson lives in New York, where he is the artistic director of the Watermill Center, which he also founded. In his laudatory speech for Robert Wilson, Thomas Oberender, artistic director of the Berliner Festspiele, drew parallels between Wilson and Goethe: “Both made impacts beyond their own cultural groups and made their boundaries more permeable, both were agents of dialogue, interpreters in one way or another.” Wilson’s world of aesthetic autonomy corresponds to Goethe’s “world literature” in the way we see the foreign.