A Sense of the City, a Sense of the Institution

Artists Chicago Community

A 1994 exhibition featured the work of Fred Wilson, whose work deconstructs museum practices and conventions of display. Here, Wilson discusses his research methodology.

The best situation for me, when I come to do a project in a city, especially a city that I don't know, is to try to get to know the city a little bit by riding around or walking around and going into its institutions. I try to talk to every staff person at the institution. That can be difficult some places, but I do try to at least interact with every staff person, and sometimes those interactions, information comes to me that illuminates certain aspects of the city or the institution that I couldn't gather on my own.

I look at every object that the institution has. I mean that's, in the best of situations, I look at every object. Sometimes it's a cursory glance and sometimes it really is learning about an object deeply, and then I try to get to know other people outside the institution from a variety of locales and communities to get a sense of the city, and to get a sense of the institution and what's the view of the institution from the outside. So every interaction I have plays into the kind of work that I make for that place. Every experience that I have somehow filters in.   

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Video still, Behind the Scenes at an Art Museum. © MCA Chicago.

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