The subject of Fred Wilson's work is museums. To date he has worked with more than twenty institutions, rearranging and reinterpreting their collections to reveal hidden biases and ideologies. Institutions, by definition, resist change. Too often they become indifferent to changing cultural attitudes, especially regarding race, gender, and class. Wilson clears away the cobwebs and helps museums and museum visitors alike see artworks in a different light. Wilson, who has been named to represent the United States at the 2003 Venice Biennale, “over the past two decades has pursued an uncompromising and rigorous vision,” writes Maurice Berger, curator of the retrospective exhibition Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations, 1979–2000. Before he established his artistic practice, Wilson, a New Yorker of African American and Caribbean descent, had worked as a freelance educator in various museums in New York, including the Metropolitan and the Museum of Natural History. He noted an enormous disparity in the way these two museums in particular presented artworks-from the color they painted the gallery walls and how they illuminated the objects, to the manner in which they described and interpreted works on labels and text panels. His breakthrough exhibition as an artist was Mining the Museum, at the Baltimore Historical Society, in 1992. The Historical Society was an extremely conservative institution whose exhibitions ordinarily made no reference to the role played in the city's history by Baltimore's sizeable African American community. Combing through the Historical Society's storage rooms, to which he was given free access, Wilson found slave shackles, a whipping post, and a Ku Klux Klan hood, among other never-exhibited objects, and integrated them in the galleries with more conventional items. The slave shackles shared a vitrine with an ornate silver tea service in an exhibit titled Metalwork; under the rubric Cabinetmaking, the whipping post was the focal point of an arrangement of antique chairs; and the Klan hood rested in a turn-of-the-century baby carriage. The museum had many eighteenth-century family portraits, often depicting a black servant in the background. To make his point, Wilson simply spotlit the servants, retitled the pictures, or directly addressed the viewer. As viewers passed by a painting portraying at its edge a young black girl, an audiotaped voice asked, “Where is my mother? Who washes my back? Who washes my hair?” Wilson is not a stranger to the Bay Area. In 1993, as a Capp Street Project resident artist, he intervened in the collection of the nineteenth-century Haas-Lilienthal House, a museum in San Francisco. In An Invisible Life: A View into the World of a 120 Year Old Man, Wilson created a fictional character whose personal effects were scattered throughout the interior. These included clothing, books, and many photographs of male friends, suggesting the character's homosexuality. Docents were given a script to read as they led tours of the house for unsuspecting visitors. Many viewers caught on to the fiction (the longevity of “Baldwin Antinous Stein” was a clue). For others, an explanation was provided at the exhibition's end. In this installation, Wilson critiques the passivity of museumgoers who succumb to what he calls the power of the “institutional voice.” More recently, in 1998, Wilson created two works at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. In Speaking in Tongues: A Look at the Language of Display, Wilson again mined the storage areas to create an exhibit of European and American art and artifacts. However, he subverted the usual de Young design and installation techniques, replacing them with those ordinarily applied in African, Oceanic, and Native American galleries. In his labels, for example, he described paintings as “painted textiles,” and portraits as “fetish figures.” The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts sponsored The Greeting Gallery, a concurrent installation at the de Young, where cultural material of indigenous people was made available for “viewing, venerating,” and perhaps the repatriation of objects. The exhibition on view in Galleries 2 and 3 surveys Wilson's career to date, featuring objects drawn from installations he has created in a variety of museums. It is accompanied by a new installation in Gallery 4, Aftermath, in which Wilson combines objects from the BAMPFA collections with those of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology.