Label Text: Fred Wilson's work challenges us to take notice of unseen peoples and untold histories—particularly in relation to the experience of African-Americans. As the U.S. representative to the 2003 Venice Biennale, Wilson turned his attention to the largely unrecognized presence of Africans in Renaissance Venice. Some of the issues raised in Wilson’s complex Biennale installation are encapsulated in this untitled print. Here, Wilson superimposes photographic reproductions of two found objects: a historical engraving of Venice and a sculptural “Blackamoor.” This term referred to African Muslims or any dark-skinned immigrants, many of whom supported the Venetian economy as skilled craftsmen, slaves, and even gondoliers.
Wilson noticed, in 2003, that the image of the Moor as an exoticized slave persisted throughout the city. Decorative sculptures of turbaned, servile figures, similar to the one pictured here, could be found lending faux grandeur to hotel foyers and advertising luxury goods. Nevertheless, Wilson felt that these figures, like the historical population they stereotype, were overlooked as “part of the furniture.” Wilson’s view of Venice literally repositions the marginalized Moor to the forefront. The figure of the African-Venetian becomes fused with the city’s emblematic gondolas not only in this print, but now also in each viewer’s memory.