WHIRL:  The Worlds of Robert Chanler


Curator, Contemporary Arts Program:  Gina Wouters
Public Programs Manager:  Rebecca Peterson
Artistic associate:  Sebastian Duncan-Portuondo

Whirl was an immersive performance work that summons the Carnivalesque spirit of Robert. Chanler.

Vizcaya was built in 1916 by James Deering, scion of an industrialist fortune who sought to create a mythical waterfront retreat and home for his ecelectic and growing collection of antiquities, classical sculptures, and American art. Deering commissioned Chanler, an eccentric American Modernist muralist in 1920 to create a bas-relief whirlpool mural that remains a defining feature of Vizcaya. Chanler was well known for creating other-worldly environments in sprawling murals and multipaneled screens inspired by allegorical visions of the natural world.  At Vizcaya, he found an ethos so rich with fantasy that it seemed to have emerged from one of his paintings.

Playing on the intersection of the scenography, ritual theatre, and puppetry, Whirl deconstructed Chanler's densely composed screens and his tempestuous Vizcaya pool mural into a multi-layered experience involving illuminated puppets, mobile projections, and sound – all attuned to the background of particular Vizcaya locations. Drawing from Chanler's fertile bestiary, a series of space-specific tableaux vivants inhabited and migrated among selected corners of the grounds, allowing visitors to meander through Vizcaya's space amidst a gradually accumulating performance installation.

Photos by David Almeida

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