Hans Peter Kuhn / Robert Wilson

The Clink Street Vaults, London
11 September 1995 - 15 October 1995

A door opens off a forgotten London street. The room was full but now it is empty. A newspaper rests on the sidetable. The year is 1895...

You descend into the darkness below. Into a subterranean expanse of deserted spaces. The cavernous interiors of The Clink Street Vaults, once the site of one of London's medieval prisons, have been transformed in time; indeed different times, from pre-history to the recent past. Above and below, there are intimations of activity, and glimpses into distant places. Darkness and light, object and sound merge to create other worlds both strange, and strangely familiar; visions both ancient and modern.

H.G. was the first ever commission made in Britain by acclaimed US theatre artist Robert Wilson and his long-term collaborator, sound and light architect Hans Peter Kuhn. It was their first major installation since their award-winning project for the 1993 Venice Biennale. Joining forces with British film production designer Michael Howells, they staged a fugitive encounter with time.

This re-edited excerpt of a video by celebrated filmmaker Mike Figgis documenting Robert Wilson and Hans Peter Kuhn's installation H.G. is also available to watch on Vimeo.

Image: On a table a copy of The Times dated 1895 and a glass engraved with the initials H G, a scene from H.G. 1995. Photograph: Stephen White

Making H.G.

James Lingwood reflects on the making of H.G.
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James Lingwood on H.G.

The mid-1990s was still a good time to search out unused, unwanted spaces in London - not as good as the early 1990s, but a lot better than now. The Clink Street vaults were like a huge underground street, in a part of London very near the City and very near the River Thames, but which every development boom had passed by (until the last one). From the street outside, it was impossible to have any idea of the scale of the spaces behind the facade. 

Precisely when H.G. Wells entered the equation is unclear. 1995 was the 100th anniversary of The Time Machine, but the relationship was always understated, even if the first room did create an explicit connection with the first chapter of the book. The space was the starting point, rather than the book...

Read the rest of this essay.

Image: Outside The Clink Street Vaults, London 1996. Photograph: Stephen White

DVD: Robert Wilson & Hans Peter Kuhn: H.G.

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DVD: Robert Wilson & Hans Peter Kuhn: H.G.

£19.95 from Cornerhouse

Enter a dark Victorian dining room, full of curios and clues; dinner has begun but the guests have gone. Then onwards and downwards into the cavernous interiors of the Clink Street vaults by the River Thames in London, transformed into an extraordinary sequence of time tableaux by theatre visionary Robert Wilson and audio artist Hans Peter Kuhn.

Celebrated film-maker Mike Figgis takes his camera on a disconcerting subterranean journey through time and space. Edited by Jo Ann Kaplan, the film includes footage of Wilson's lecture at the Royal Geographical Society and interviews with Hans Peter Kuhn and production designer Michael Howells.

  • Artists: Hans Peter Kuhn, Mike Figgis & Robert Wilson
  • Running Time: 52 minutes 32 seconds
  • Colour/PAL
  • DVD Region: 2
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 (190mm x 135mm)
  • Sound: Stereo
  • Language: English


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What Wilson and Kuhn achieve is the personalisation of history, distilling it from something vast and unfathomable into something intensely personal and meaningful. – Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

Selected Press

The connecting theme of time travel – the H.G. in question being of course the author of The Time Machine – provides the opportunity to mount a series of stunningly theatrical tableaux. In one barrel-vaulted dungeon, a mummified corpse lies surrounded in billowing fog. Above, hovering in mid-air, hang a severed hand and goblet. Through a barred door it is possible to glimpse, in the distance, a sunlit jungle glade with fluttering foliage and crying birds. A ragged gap in the wall reveals a ruined classical city with arrows above which are miraculously suspended in the air. The effect is close to fiction of the magic realist school – a series of detached, mesmerisingly exact, images. – Martin Gayford, The Spectator, 14 October 1995 

What Wilson and Kuhn achieve is the personalisation of history, distilling it from something vast and unfathomable into something intensely personal and meaningful. Like HG Wells’s angel, we can only stare and wonder. – Lyn Gardner, The Guardian, 14 September 1995

...evocative and scary, beautiful and funny, hugely inventive and utterly unexpected. – Charles Hall, Art Review, October 1995

Wilson leaves it to us to draw our conclusions, with the warning that if we try too hard we could miss out on the experience. His vaulting imagination affords humour as well as the drama of a theatrical event. This is the Madame Tussaud’s I always hoped for as a child. – Daniel Farson, The Mail on Sunday, 8 October 1995

About Robert Wilson

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Robert Wilson

Since the late 1960s, Robert Wilson's productions have decisively shaped the look of theatre and opera. Through his signature use of light, his investigations into the structure of a simple movement, and the classical rigour of his scenic and furniture design, Wilson has continuously articulated the force and originality of his vision. Wilson's close ties and collaborations with leading artists, writers and musicians continue to fascinate audiences worldwide.

Of Wilson's artistic career, Susan Sontag has said “it has the signature of a major artistic creation. I can't think of any body of work as large or as influential.” Wilson was educated at the University of Texas and arrived in New York in 1963 to attend Brooklyn's Pratt Institute. Soon thereafter, Wilson set to work with his Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds and, together with his company, developed his first signature. Regarded as a leader of Manhattan's then-burgeoning downtown art scene, Wilson turned his attention to large-scale opera and with Philip Glass created the monumental Einstein on the Beach (1976), which achieved worldwide acclaim and altered conventional notions of a moribund form.

Wilson has worked with major European theaters and opera houses collaborating on landmark original works that were featured regularly at the Festival d'Automne in Paris, Der Berliner Ensemble, the Schaubühne in Berlin, the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, the Salzburg Festival. His numerous awards and honors include an Obie award for direction, a Golden Lion at the 1993 Venice Biennale, the 3rd Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the Premio Europa award from Taormina Arte, two Guggenheim Fellowship awards, the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship award, a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement. He has been named a "Commandeur des arts et des letters" by the French Minister of Culture.



Images: Detail of  creature in it's tank, next to a sunken bottle engraved with the initials H.G. (left) Photograph: Stephen White. Portait of Robert Wilson. Photograph: Horst, courtesy Byrd Hoffman Foundation (above).

About Hans Peter Kuhn

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Hans Peter Kuhn

Hans-Peter Kuhn is an artist based in Berlin whose primary interest lies in the creation of unusual audio environments. He has collaborated internationally with theatre director Robert Wilson, including on the Artangel project H.G., devising a series of compelling and original soundscapes to complement Wilson's epic stage visions. When Kuhn sets about making an installation for a particular place, he succeeds in transforming both architecture and ambience through the subtle juxtaposition of incongruous sound sources. Recent commissions include the Neville Street installation in Leeds and he is working towards a permanent work infront of the oldest building in Pasadena, California.

Images: Installation shot of pristinely made hospital beds neatly arranged in rows for Robert Wilson and Hans Peter Kuhn's H.G. 1996 (left) Photograph: Stephen White. Portrait of the artist Hans Peter Kuhn, 1992. Photograph: Gerhard Kassner


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Who made this possible?


H.G. was commissioned by Artangel with Beck’s, further assistance on this project was received by The Henry Moore Foundation and the London Arts Board.

Artangel is generously supported by Arts Council England and the private patronage of the Artangel International CircleSpecial AngelsGuardian Angels and The Company of Angels.