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Respeaking Othello in Fred Wilson’s Speak of Me as I Am

  • Peter Erickson

Abstract

At the 2003 Venice Biennale, the African American installation artist Fred Wilson made an extraordinary appeal to Shakespeare’s Othello.1 The exhibition title proclaims the connection by quoting from Othello’s long final speech: “Speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate/Nor set down aught in malice” (5.2.351–52). But the speech culminates in the “bloody period” (365) of suicide. Othello’s implosion collapses the potential space between extenuation and malice where an alternative definition of “I am” might hypothetically have been possible. This cancellation is Wilson’s starting point, and my term “respeaking,” ambiguously poised between repeating and revising, addresses the prospect of a new start. The issue turns on what it means to say Othello’s words and on how we define “I.”

Keywords

Film Clip Large Game Chess Game Black Glass Molotov Cocktail 
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Notes

  1. 6.
    Reproductions of the Pesaro tomb are available in Giuseppe Cristinelli, Baldassare Longhena, Architetto del’ 600 a Venezia (Padua: Marsilio, 1972), 139Google Scholar
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  3. 9.
    Fred Wilson, Fred Wilson: A Conversation with K. Anthony Appiah (New York: PaceWildenstein, 2006), 14Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    Dympna Callaghan, “‘Othello Was a White Man’: Properties of Race on Shakespeare’s Stage,” in Shakespeare Without Women: Representing Gender and Race on the Renaissance Stage (London: Routledge, 2000), 73–96Google Scholar
  5. 14.
    Virginia Mason Vaughan, “Teaching Richard Burbage’s Othello,” in Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare’s Othello, ed. Peter Erickson and Maurice Hunt (New York: Modern Language Association, 2005), 148–55.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    Maurice Berger and Fred Wilson, “Collaboration, Museums, and the Politics of Display: A Conversation with Fred Wilson,” in Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations, 1979–2000, ed. Maurice Berger (Baltimore, MD: Center for Art and Visual Culture, 2001), 32–39Google Scholar
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    Elizabeth Alexander, “‘I am; I’m a black man;/I am:’ Michael Harper’s ‘Black Aesthetic,’” in The Black Interior (Saint Paul: Graywolf, 2004), 59–89Google Scholar
  8. 32.
    Fred Wilson, “When Europe Slept, It Dreamt of the World,” in Unpacking Europe: Towards a Critical Reading, ed. Salah Hassan and Iftikhar Dadi (Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 2001), 426–31Google Scholar
  9. 34.
    Glen Helfand, “Six New Etchings by Fred Wilson,” Art on Paper 8, no. 6 (July/August 2004): 24.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Peter Erickson 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Erickson

There are no affiliations available

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