Fred Wilson: "The Silent Message of the Museum"

The M.A. Program in Museum Professions and Institute of Museum Ethics at Seton Hall University hosted a lecture by conceptual artist Fred Wilson on Wednesday, February 3, 2010. Wilson’s talk, titled “The Silent Message of the Museum, was free and open to the public.

In his talk at Seton Hall, Wilson discussed how his projects remind the viewer that there are many stories contained within any single object, and not just the one story described in the wall label or museum catalogue. Wilson showed how his interventions expose the one-directional view typical of traditional museum practice—from colonizer to colonized, settler to native, white to black—and remind us that there are many different perspectives and viewpoints other than those contained in traditional museum wall text.

A 1999 recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant as well as the 2003 American representative at the Venice Biennale, Fred Wilson is internationally known for his museum installations, in which he re-installs and re-labels objects owned by a museum for the purpose of creating new meanings and non-conventional narratives. Beyond bringing home the point that the way we view and “read” objects is conditioned by context and juxtaposition, Wilson’s installations subvert, criticize, or poke fun at the unspoken assumptions that museums make about the social order, including such issues as class, gender, and ethnicity. He has created such projects across the US and around the world in such diverse venues as the Seattle Art Museum, Museums of History and Ethnography and the National Gallery of Jamaica, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Dartmouth College, and the Museum of World Culture in Gothenborg, Sweden.

Born in 1954, Wilson has a BFA from SUNY Purchase. Wilson serves on the Board of Trustees of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. He lives and works in New York City.

The talk was supported by the Edwin Weisl, Jr., Lectureship Grant, The Robert Lehman Foundation; the President’s Advisory Council, Office of the Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Seton Hall University; and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Photo Information:
Portrait of Fred Wilson
February 2005
Photo by: Kerry Ryan McFate / Courtesy PaceWildenstein

Video: A Conversation with Fred Wilson

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