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Fred Wilson: Beauty and Ugliness | "Exclusive" | Art21

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    [Fred Wilson: Beauty & Ugliness]
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    Beauty...
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    Beauty, beauty, beauty...
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    I'm really interested in beauty.
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    [Venice Biennale, 2003]
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    I'm interested in beauty
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    if you think of beauty as
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    "an ultimate visual experience."
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    But I'm also interested in beauty
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    in that it can hide meaning.
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    The world is complex,
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    and often we try to
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    separate out all of these experiences.
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    "This is beautiful." "This is ugly."
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    "This is a beautiful experience--that's all it is..."
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    "...there is no meaning."
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    Or, "the meaning is not important."
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    People have to deal with the fact that
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    there is meaning in beauty--
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    there is meaning in ugliness.
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    [The Studio Museum in Harlem, 2004]
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    And so, in a lot of my work--if I can--
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    I try to bring out that tension.
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    The whipping post and chairs is a perfect example
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    because chairs are really beautiful;
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    that whipping post is certainly not.
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    Whipping post and chairs were from the first exhibition I did
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    with museum collections.
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    It was at the Maryland Historical Society in 1992.
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    It's a very traditional display in a certain way.
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    There's no manipulation of the objects
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    other than their positioning.
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    And that changes the meaning,
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    or the relationship,
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    or how you think about them.
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    And this is everything that I'm about
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    when I'm working with museums
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    and quite often when I'm working in my studio.
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    Looking at high-end decorative arts in the chairs
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    and the whipping post,
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    they have a very different history,
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    but it relates very directly in that
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    those people who sat in the chairs
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    had some relationship with
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    those who were on the whipping post.
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    Not acknowledging that things are complex--
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    that beauty is complex--
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    I think that that's the problem,
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    that people want to do that.
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    So, I enjoy making it complex for people,
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    [LAUGHS]
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    because that's my world, you know.
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    [LAUGHS]
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    Fred Wilson: Beauty & Ugliness | "Exclusive" | Art21
Title:
Fred Wilson: Beauty and Ugliness | "Exclusive" | Art21
Description:

Episode #197: Filmed in 2004, Fred Wilson discusses how beauty and ugliness together create meaning. For his installation "Speak of Me as I Am" at the 50th Venice Biennale (2003), Wilson arranged "blackamoors"—decorative sculptures common in Venice—throughout the American Pavilion. In doing so, he called attention to how these beautiful objects depict Africans in servitude. Also shown in this film is Wilson's piece "Cabinetmaking, 1820--1960" (1992)—ornate nineteenth-century chairs juxtaposed with a whipping post—installed at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2004.

Appropriating curatorial methods and strategies, Fred Wilson creates new contexts for the display of art and artifacts found in museum collections, along with wall labels, sound, lighting, and non-traditional pairings of objects. His sculptures and installations lead viewers to recognize that changes in context create changes in meaning, and thereby shape interpretations of historical truth and artistic value.

Learn more about the artist at:
http://www.art21.org/artists/fred-wilson

CREDITS: Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Mead Hunt & Joel Shapiro. Sound: Judy Karp & Merce Williams. Editor: Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: Fred Wilson. Special Thanks: Maryland Historical Society & The Studio Museum in Harlem. Theme Music: Peter Foley.

"Exclusive" is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; 21c Museum Hotel, and by individual contributors.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
Art21
Project:
"Extended Play" series
Duration:
02:51

English subtitles

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