by Sue Jane Stokeras. Published in the Trans Artists Newsletter 18, Summer 2007
Weeding and planting
My experience, while of a longer duration than that of many Watermill participants, is not unusual in content. I might add that I have also planted many, many plants in the extensive Watermill gardens, weeded many weeds, and washed countless numbers of dishes. I particularly remember an Australian dancer with whom I spent many interesting hours planting pachysandras, and a Chinese artist who was my favorite dish-washing companion.
Last year for the three weeks leading up to the fund-raising Benefit, I was the full time vegetable chopper and pot and pan washer in the kitchen under chef Illenk, a young Indonesian dancer also trained in large-scale food preparation, working alongside a Korean/American video artist, a Brazilian actor/dancer and an interior designer from Thailand. After the Benefit we all got to move out of the kitchen and spend the next weeks in quite other fashion, I remounting two old works of Robert Wilson, the erstwhile chef and some of his helpers performing in or creating costumes or props for both.
My first experience of Watermill was in the summer of 1994. Since then I have gone almost every summer to Watermill, some years for only a week or two, other years for several months. In those years I have worked on dozens of different projects, many of them involving staging, others involving design work, museum installations, the development of books or furniture, and the huge fund-raising Benefit that we create every year to raise money for the Center. Some of the projects I have gone on with after the workshop at the Center, with others I only was involved in the beginning development stages there, but in every case I have learned something. I have had the opportunity to work with artists, architects, musicians, designers, scientists, philosophers, anthropologists and other scholars from all over the world.
For myself personally, and I think for many other past participants, Watermill means not only Robert Wilson and his work, it is also a place where we meet our future collaborators and fellow artists. In 1996 I met the Amsterdam-based choreographer André Gingras while working on one of Wilson's pieces in Germany, and the following summer we both went to Watermill to work on a piece which André had proposed to Robert Wilson. From then on I've worked with André many times. So I am perhaps an extreme case, but I can say without any hesitation that Watermill has been a defining experience in my life as an artist.
Sue Jane Stoker