'Here Elsewhere': Robert Wilson puts a surreal spin on Hermès' home collections
The wonderful world of Hermès collided with the spectacular, creative vision of the director and artist Robert Wilson in New York this week. Working together to present a surreal, off-kilter realm centred around Hermès’ home collections, the performance-driven installation, entitled ‘Here Elsewhere’, was a captivating articulation of the label’s values.
Equally rooted in Hermès’ rigorous craftsmanship and its propensity for disarming fantasy, ‘Here Elsewhere’ revealed itself in three parts. Upon entering a prismatic, mirrored archway, guests found themselves in an abstracted home environment, adorned with Hermès furniture, flatware, home accessories and jewellery that a cast of Wilson’s performers delicately interacted with. In one corner, one player slowly explores each drawer of the label’s newly launched watch cabinet, albeit with a taxidermy crow on his shoulder, while another sits at the leather covered dressing table/jewellery cabinet hybrid, which also launched in Milan, this time with a colourful parrot perched by his side.
Decorated with panels featuring the wallpaper designs of illustrator Nigel Peake, as well as smaller furniture pieces and home accessories hung in mid-air as if in flight, the installation was also interspersed with Wilson’s signature video portraits, which drew inspiration from Hermès’ 2016 theme ‘Nature at Full Gallop’ and casts animals as its subjects.
Wilson comments, ‘In this ﬁrst room, video portraits of wild animals are projected. They are calm and still. They remind me of the words of American poet Ezra Pound, which I used in my ﬁrst productions: “The fourth: the dimension of stillness. / And the power over wild beasts.” Animals have always fascinated me; they have a way of listening interiorly.’
He continues, ‘By creating "Here Elsewhere", I wanted to see how different objects could complement each other. Taking one object and putting another one next to it helps me to see them better, and every encounter enhances my perception of them. They become important in their differences or similarities.’
In the following room, constructed in the round, Wilson’s signature approach to sound, lighting, direction and theatre comes into full force. A sole dancer standing on top of a podium performs surrounded by a swirling video backdrop of Hermès imagery as a soaring score by Philip Glass reverberates around. The concept of time is suspended, even if just for a while.
This notion was very much something the Hermès Maison Universe artistic directors Charlotte Macaux Perelman and Alexis Fabry wanted to put forth. Perelman says, ‘Every object is a product of its era, but stays clear of fashions. It must withstand the test of time; it endures and is passed down. Part of our approach is an ode to slowness and to single gestures performed with precision. The contrast between the frenzy of New York and the slower pace of Hermès creates an interesting tension.’
Fabry adds, ‘Hermès also has a very speciﬁc relationship with time, preferring a longer, slower pace.’
Of course, it would be Wilson who had the last laugh. To exit, guests walked into a pink room filled with bubbles and a fantastical, wing-eared, pig character crying, ‘That’s all, folks!’