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Lodovico’s urgent reaction—“The object poisons sight. / Let it be hid”—shapes the conclusion of Shakespeare’s Othello. The gesture to shut the bed curtains to cover up the dead bodies of Othello, Desdemona, and Emilia on the bed signifies not only Lodovico’s refusal to look but also his refusal to reflect or to understand what has happened. Consequently the ending remains unresolved. By contrast, the African American artist Fred Wilson can bear to reflect and to question and brings us to the conclusion that we cannot possibly understand without the lens of race.
Wilson’s sequence of sculptures posits an open and expanded field in which all aspects of mourning become a potential source of emotional complexity and deeper insight. Lodovico’s command “Let it be hid” ultimately means hiding from the understanding that full analysis could reveal. Fred Wilson’s art undoes and reverses the effect of Lodovico’s hiding. Unlike the closed bed curtains, his formal structures create symbolic spaces for ceremony, contemplation, and critical breakthrough. The artistic process of Wilson’s alternative endings releases Shakespeare’s character Othello—and releases us, too.