storytellers Name Location Practice
Stuart Williams New York City Environmental Artist
Dreams of Dresden Ever since I first saw the movie “Slaughterhouse Five” in the 1970s, I have been haunted by a scene in that movie, in which American prisoners of war are arriving in Dresden by train... unknowingly, just a few days before the bombing of the city in February 1945. As the train rolls across the Elbe, the American prisoners are looking out the window and they have their first view of Dresden’s enchanting and lovely skyline. One of the Americans says, “I’ve never seen anything like it... it’s so beautiful.” Last fall, I traveled to Dresden for the first time, as a guest of the Mayor’s Office of that city. Before leaving New York, I rented Slaughterhouse Five, as I had not seen it for 40 years. Once again, that same scene left me deeply moved. Then... just a few days later, I looked out the window of my own train, and saw the same view for myself. My recent trip to Dresden was to investigate potential sites for a temporary light installation, as a companion piece to the installation seen pictured here (small photo), which was installed
in Columbus, Ohio, USA in 2012. “Breath of Life / Dresden & Columbus” is a dual-city installation linking the two cities in a shared public art experience in celebration of their 20 years as “sister cities.” The Dresden installation is in planning for 2013 at the Dresden Cathedral, built in 1738 and one of Dresden’s foremost historic landmarks. A year ago, when I was commissioned to do an installation in Columbus, I had no idea that it might lead to an installation in another city, and when officials in Columbus suggested the idea of a “parallel” installation in their sister city, I said, “What city would that be?” When they answered, “Dresden,” I could hardly believe it. Suddenly there was the possibility that I’d be creating an artwork in a city I had always wanted to see. I was thrilled at the thought. Waves of light, rising and falling at the pace of human breath, create the visual impression of respiration, suggesting that an historic building in each city is “slowly breathing,” as though in a relaxed state of Zen-like meditation.
Given Dresden’s nearly total destruction in the closing days of WWII, I think the vision of one of its greatest historic buildings appearing to be breathing, will be extremely moving.
Above: the Columbus installation of “Breath of Life / Dresden & Columbus.” Williams’ environmental art installations have been critically acclaimed around the globe. Other large scale site installations have been set in Central Park, New York; Château d’Azayle-Rideau, France; Filisur, Switzerland; Los Angeles, California, and near Benicia, California. Williams lives and works in New York City.
Herbst 2012 untitled 004
Magazine story published in Berlin in 2012.