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Robert Whitman, MoonRain

May 14, 2011, Dia Beacon


Dia Art Foundation is pleased to present the recent theater piece, MoonRain, by Robert Whitman, a pioneer of multimedia installation and performance. Referencing a famous collection of 18th century Japanese ghost stories by Ueda Akinari, the innovative work is set inside a fog environment designed by Fujiko Nakaya and will be staged in Dia:Beacon's Lower Level Gallery.

Robert Whitman first met Fujiko Nakaya during the E.A.T. project to build the Pepsi Pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan, where Nakaya developed the cloud sculpture that surrounded the building. Nakaya continued to participate in E.A.T. projects and also to create an extended series of fog sculptures around the world that have been incorporated in the designs of public spaces, buidlings and parks, often in collaboration with other artists and scientists.

In 2004 Whitman and Nakaya were both at an exhibition on E.A.T. at the museum in Norrkoping, Sweden, and worked together on a piece Whitman called Dialogue.

As Whitman describes it:

“Because I had been interested in projecting on fog and anything else I could project on, it just seemed very natural to introduce that idea as part of a dialogue which we performed at the opening of the exhibition in Norrkoping. I projected video images from an earlier piece, Not a Novel, onto the fog sculpture Fujiko had created in the garden of the museum. I’ve projected on leaves in the woods and stuff; and one of the things that happens with fog, it blows around, so a piece of fog comes up here and reveals part of the image and another piece of fog comes up over there and another part of the image is revealed: the image is fragmented. You can set up a circumstance where the likelihood is good of something happening that you never saw before. That’s the thing with the fog.”

For the piece, MoonRain, which was to be performed in the summer of 2010 in the woods in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, Whitman told Fujiko that he wanted to work with her to make the fog an active part of the imagery of the performance. As he has said: “I was relating to this idea of Ugetsu which comes from the 18th century writer Uedia Akinari, Tales of Moon Light and Rain (Ugetsu mongatari). They come from a tradition where the story is made with gaps, kind of like a Chinese painting where you have the landscape and the whole empty canvas, and wherever those gaps are, they are filled in by the person telling the story or reading the story and leaving room for your mind to wander and be engaged. So fog is a lot like that. There are a lot of gaps, things come and they go, disappear and appear. I thought that was an interesting parallel.”


Robert Whitman


Robert Whitman was born in New York City in 1935. He died in Warwick, New York, in 2024.

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Photo: Don Stahl

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