Fred Wilson. Speak of Me as I Am

Organized by:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA

Kathleen Goncharov

This site-specific installation reviewed the kaleidoscopic multiculturalism of historical Venice through the eyes of an African American of the 21st century. Wilson developed and arranged a series of works using a variety of media—from historical artifacts to objects produced by modern Venetian artisans. In addition to a large black glass chandelier (crafted at a glass factory on the island of Murano) that crowned the rotunda at the entrance of the Pavilion, an array of works created for this installation located black Venice in art, myth, and history.

Included in the exhibition were life-size mannequins adorned with elaborate period costumes based on masterpieces by Veronese, Carpaccio, Mantegna, and other artists; reproductions of Africans who appear in Venetian Renaissance paintings; and photographs of Senegalese individuals currently living in Italy. Several authentic Renaissance paintings were also exhibited, and through the use of audio, Wilson brought the Africans depicted in them to life, giving them voices to briefly tell their own stories. The artist also created September Dream, a video installation, using the legend of Othello, to create a futile fantasy about reversing tragedy.