"I AM... BLACK."


One of the most striking installations in the Biennial is the one by Fred Wilson, spreading on a good portion of the third floor of Pera Museum. The works of the artist deal with exclusion based on race. For the Biennial, his installation is shaped around Ottoman culture and the role of black people in it. The most memorable piece in the installation is “Afro Kismet”. The artwork is placed on a huge wall covered with Iznik tiles, that are traditionally made in bright and warm colors. However, the tiles are specifically preferred in dark shades of green and brown together with black for this installation. There is Arabic calligraphy on them: One of the walls read “Black is beautiful” and the other “Mother Africa”. Between the walls, there are two chandeliers, built in accordance with traditional design, but the metal that is supposed to be gold is instead made in black. These interpretations of Ottoman traditions are outstanding applications of black to existing history. And there is more to Wilson’s installation: Quotes written on the walls both in English and Turkish; flags of African countries that are stripped out of their colors (because the colors belong to intruders); and maybe most interesting of all, his work done on actual paintings and photographs of the museum, marking the black people in them.