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Fred Wilson’s museum interventions

The speaker discusses the impact of race on art and museum displays. They highlight how different cultures are represented and the influence of perspective on interpretation. The speaker urges us to question everyday objects and their histories, emphasizing the importance of inclusion in museums. Created by Smarthistory.

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Video transcript

I remember one of the last things as I graduated college I was the only black student in in the art school, at this state university The chair of the department said to me, Do you want to be part of the black art world or the white art world? Now, all four years, nobody had said any that there were two You know, and Im like, what does that mean? I worked at the Museum of Natural History, out of college, and I also worked at the Metropolitan And eventually, I began to have ideas about these environments Some of them house the same cultures If you look at Africa, Asia and Native objects, they both have these kind of collections But how they display them, what they say about them, the environment that theyre placed in is very different And to me, this was fascinating, because it just showed in high relief, how the museum creates meaning, according to what they want you to know But then theres these other parts of that meaning that they are not wholly in control of What is being received, and whos receiving it, and what does it do to the artists whove made these particular objects As a person of color, even more so this is laid onto you by other people And essentially, at that time, it it was just, you know, white Americans creating the meaning Therere a lot of things in the world, as well, not just in the museum, that, for the most part theyre not being examined Very banal things, like a coffee cup or, any kind of advertising or or object, theyre not being examined because were going about our daily lives and and doing our thing and and and we dont have the time to examine every little thing When I slow down, I begin to muse on, what are these things really about? What are their particular histories? And I think things have shifted in in the museum world I dont think the museum people were trying not to include us in in the conversation It was they just didnt realize they werent including us in the conversation When I first got to do a project with a museum, it it affected museum professionals really strongly Because I was using their language in a way that they never would use Because I had worked in museums, I understood the didactic I understood display in a way that they themselves could not Like newspapers, if youre aware that there are various perspectives, even within the fact that they are giving you their full scholarship and their their you know, their full knowledge, then you dont have to pick apart the institution Youre just aware that theyre going to have a different point of view, and you can understand your perspective in relation to that So I just say dont ignore that But still enjoy the exhibition and the museum