Analysis Of Fred Wilson's Mining The Museum

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Fred Wilson is known for his talent to make ordinary things portray exceptional messages. Of his works, Mining the Museum is arguably one of his most provocative. In this exhibition, Wilson brilliantly assessed the representation of African Americans and white Americans in the Maryland Historical Society, one of Maryland’s oldest institutions. Still, due to its subtle though “mean-spirited” nature, aspects of Fred Wilson’s Mining the Museum would perplex even Plato’s Socrates in the Republic.
Focusing first on Wilson’s opening piece, it is possible to see how this particular Museum in Maryland, as an institution, is criticized. Wilson, when “mining” the museum in which his exhibition was displayed, found the busts of three prominent American
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Here, Wilson implies that our society is built on slavery and that without the rusted iron; the polished silver could never exist. More importantly, it reinforces the flaws of the museum once more by pointing out that while it lacked the busts of heroic African American heroes, the museum possessed a symbol (the shackles) of the darkest moments of American history. Inevitably, Wilson managed to create tension, attack society, and instill collective guilt for the depravities of the past. As a result, Wilson compels his viewers, through that collective guilt to prevent history from repeating itself. Something that Plato would label as “moral improvement.” Still, even more so than Wilson’s opening piece, Metalwork puts people in power—and all those who are associated with their prosperity--in a negative light, which is something that Plato strongly disagrees with. To Plato's Socrates, the guardians, or the people in power, need to be presented in a positive light as well-intentioned people; in Wilson's display, however, slave owners, who held significant power in early American society, were (rightfully) chastised. While Plato pushed for righteousness, he protected the Guardians' reputation in order to instill an ordered society. It is also worth noting that Plato’s Socrates may not have even found moral fault with the institution of slavery; most of the Enlightenment thinkers who built American society did not, after
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