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Antonioni

The Passenger or the search for identity (FW31)

OTHELLO NIGHTMARES: TIME, RACE AND TRAGEDY IN FRED WILSON’S SEPTEMBER DREAM

JESSICA SCARLATA
OTHELLO NIGHTMARES: TIME, RACE AND TRAGEDY IN FRED WILSON’S SEPTEMBER DREAM

Fred Wilsonas four-channel DVD installation September Dream (2001) - included at the Studio Museum in Harlem venue for the traveling retrospective Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations 1979-2000 - raises questions concerning violence, the memory of tragedy and the representation of ‘racea. On a split screen, four versions of Othello are projected: two film adaptations and two recorded performances of the Verdi opera. Each version plays in reverse, from Desdemonaas death to the moment just before Othello finds her scarf and flies into a rage, a moment when the couple are still in love. The segments repeat and play at different speeds, so that at times each screen quadrant depicts the same moment, while at others, different actions compete for the vieweras attention. The silence of the installation1 and its backwards projection is disorienting and makes strange a familiar and often-performed story. This particular mix of silence, reversal, repetition and multiplication, along with Wilsonas manipulation of playback speed, changes Desdemonaas flight and death from a dramatic narrative climax into a series of mesmerizing, graceful and abstract gestures - she elegantly rises from her deathbed, her dress billows, her hair flows. These final moments of tragedy become a sublime dreamscape as strangulation becomes embrace, and the love and life destroyed by an act of violence is revived.