Fred Wilson and Montage

The work of Fred Wilson seems to me like the three-dimensional equivalent to Eisenstein’s theories of montage. Montage, according to Eisenstein, is the juxtaposition of two or more images that are in conflict. One type of montage is idea-associative montage, in which two shots clashed together give way to another meaning, focused on an individual person or object. The conflict of the shots gives meaning. Though these two methods of creating meaning from clashing objects are similar, the point at which they diverse is not merely spatial.

Kenneth Haltman states “the longer and harder one looks, the better one sees; the better one sees, the subtler the connections one finds oneself able to make” (Haltman 5). The ability to look closely and look back is what makes Wilson’s work so successful in reexamining artifacts. Michael Baxandall, who is mentioned in Haltman’s essay, once wrote, “what I want to lay emphasis on is that the viewer, moving about the space between object and label, is highly active. He is not a passive subject for instruction.” This is what Wilson’s work and any successful museum does is make the viewer an active participant in the narrative being constructed. Haltman labels the actions of the viewer “intellectual detective work” in which we “see articulation and deduce patterns of use; we see interaction and deduce relationship; we see expression and deduce reception” (Haltman 5). In Mining the Museum this detective work comes from the juxtaposition of historical objects which make us reconsider what their purpose was and is today.

Haltman also allows us to consider the feeling of polarities as a metaphor. Wilson realizes this idea in his work as does Eisenstein in his use of montage. Wilson also speaks to polarities making for more complex understanding in this video on beauty and ugliness.