Artist Yao Zhang (Theater MFA 14), a Chinese native, spent the summer at renowned theater director Robert Wilson's Watermill Center Summer Residency Program in the Hamptons in New York where she developed the performance piece My Favorite Food. The work features a continuous course of bubbles that emanate from a headless human form, presided over by two performers dressed as white-jacketed waiters with giant red lips (see photo gallery above).
The work was also chosen by Wilson to be performed at the Watermill 20th Anniversary Benefit as well as the South Hampton Disabled Children's Camp.
24700 asked Zhang a few questions via email about her piece and residency experience.
24700: Can you elaborate on the idea behind 'My Favorite Food?'
It is a dinner scene. A rich man in tuxedo with a tube head is served dinner by two waiters on a long table. His food is cactus, but since he has a bubble head, he will never get his food. Every time he tries to eat it, the bubble will pop. I tried to show how frustrating it is when one wants to do something that can never be accomplished, and relate it to time. How long could someone repeat this, and what would that mean to one's sense of self?
24700: How was the residency? How did it inform your work?
The residency was a really exciting experience. I met a lot of artists from all over the world, mostly from Europe. All of them are very talented. We became very good friends, and a lot of us had talked about possibilities of working together in the future. And I also met those artists who work with Robert Wilson and worked with them. Also I met some legendary artists like Marina Abramovic, Isabella Rossellini, Dieter Meier and some other theater artists.
The residency program is a five-week program. The first two weeks, all the participants prepare for the annual benefit...There are around 12 proposals that Robert Wilson picked to be in the benefit. People who are involved in these performances also will rehearse and work on those pieces.
I got the idea [for the piece] when I was in the space. Watermill Center has very nice woods, and there are lanes to walk around and two platforms in there. I had my idea when I was walking in the woods at one of the platforms. I thought the idea would work really nice in the natural environment like watermill and also on that platform. It turned out after Robert Wilson saw my proposal, he picked the same space—the platform I had my idea for me to perform.
24700: What's your plan with the piece?
This is actually the second piece I developed based on the same method. The first one was developed together with my boyfriend, Liang Guo (MFA2 film directing) in Janie Geiser’s Projected Object class. I will try to bring both to the art festival, and I already have other ideas about it and hopefully will be able to finish another one or two performances before graduation.