Event Title

Re-Contextualizing the Object: Fred Wilson's Wildfire Test Pit and the Semiotics of Museum Labels

Presenter Information

Elana Bell, Oberlin CollegeFollow

Location

King Building 341

Document Type

Presentation

Start Date

4-28-2017 1:30 PM

End Date

4-28-2017 2:50 PM

Abstract

My research explores how artist Fred Wilson manipulates the traditional form of the museum label in his Allen Memorial Art Museum exhibition, Wildfire Test Pit. Throughout his career, Wilson has been a pioneer in the field of institutional critique, curating exhibitions in museums across the country that make explicit the problematic narratives of power that these institutions perpetuate. In Wildfire Test Pit, the artist uses unconventional and intentionally confusing object labels and wall texts to both decontextualize and re-contextualize objects from the AMAM’s collection. I show how Wilson addresses the ideological space between object and viewer, making the case that traditional museum practice can drastically change the categorization, and therefore the hierarchy of objects in the eyes of the institution’s visitors. Beyond acknowledging Oberlin’s particular history, the exhibition offers a model of how museums might display the stories of cultures and individuals through a postmodern and inter-textual approach to traditional systems of classification.

Keywords:

art history, contemporary art, Fred Wilson, institutional critique, museums, Allen Memorial Art Museum, semiotics

Notes

Session I, Panel 4 - Curation | Classification
Moderator: Mir Finkelman, Curatorial Assistant at the Allen Memorial Art Museum

Major

Art History; Voice Performance

Advisor(s)

Erik Inglis, Medieval Art History
Lorraine Manz, Voice

Project Mentor(s)

Sarah Hamill, Art History

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Apr 28th, 1:30 PM Apr 28th, 2:50 PM

Re-Contextualizing the Object: Fred Wilson's Wildfire Test Pit and the Semiotics of Museum Labels

King Building 341

My research explores how artist Fred Wilson manipulates the traditional form of the museum label in his Allen Memorial Art Museum exhibition, Wildfire Test Pit. Throughout his career, Wilson has been a pioneer in the field of institutional critique, curating exhibitions in museums across the country that make explicit the problematic narratives of power that these institutions perpetuate. In Wildfire Test Pit, the artist uses unconventional and intentionally confusing object labels and wall texts to both decontextualize and re-contextualize objects from the AMAM’s collection. I show how Wilson addresses the ideological space between object and viewer, making the case that traditional museum practice can drastically change the categorization, and therefore the hierarchy of objects in the eyes of the institution’s visitors. Beyond acknowledging Oberlin’s particular history, the exhibition offers a model of how museums might display the stories of cultures and individuals through a postmodern and inter-textual approach to traditional systems of classification.