Robert Wilson: What I Really Learned in College


When the trailblazing director showed up at Pratt in the Sixties, he found himself at the heart of the art world

My freshman year at Pratt was a new chapter in my life: To live in Brooklyn and be on a campus with international people, to attend painting classes with George McNeil and Harold Leeds, was a unique experience. I got to hear Susan Sontag’s lectures, as well as Mark Rothko’s and Edward Albee’s, all of whom I met and got to know. Susan and I continued to see each other until her death in 2004. Maybe the most impressive of all was the five-year course in history of architecture taught by Sibyl Moholy-Nagy. In the classroom, she had three screens with images projected rapidly. The images had no relationship to her lecture. She knew countless architects of her time, and told stories about them that one would not read in a history book. In the middle of the third year, she asked us to design a city in three minutes. This was the single most important class I ever had. After five years of attending her lectures, as I was graduating, I was in an elevator with her in the main building. It was just the two of us, and I told her she was the best teacher I ever had, and there was no response. She just looked straight ahead, and when we got to the ground floor, she walked out the door, never turning her head or reacting.