Earlier today I reported that the Central Indiana Community Foundation has terminated Fred Wilson’s E Pluribus Unum project. This afternoon I conducted Wilson’s first interview about CICF’s decision. He sounded both dejected and exhausted.
“I’m disappointed, but that’s as much as I can say at this time about their ultimate decision,” Wilson told me. “I am glad that Indianapolis took it seriously and talked as much about the issues of identity and about the power of the visual image as they did.
“Ultimately I felt it was the decision of the community there to make a determination, and it seemed that some people had differing thoughts about it. I had hoped for dialogue among community members for a long time. I was not intending to be at all these things — in the last few months I’ve not been able to be engaged with the project every day because my father got ill suddenly and passed away. I’ve been dealing with that so I’ve mostly been on the phone with people about how this has been going. As a result, I don’t know very much about it except that they said they’ll send me whatever they have about [their community forums]. I don’t know if that would be considered a thorough conversation or not.”
Wilson said that he was unsure what would happen to the material he created for the piece — he has a document archive related to the E Pluribus Unum, digital renderings, a small maquette and a few other things — except to say that he’d certainly make it available to writers or publishers who may be interested in what happened in Indianapolis. He said he has no plans to show any of these materials — “It’s not really a huge amount of material for a whole exhibition, I’d imagine” — but that he’s considering the idea of making a small-scale version of E Pluribus Unum [below right]. I asked him if he was thinking of something of a size that might be exhibited somewhere in Indianapolis, perhaps at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. (On Tuesday a museum spokesperson told MAN that it was “too early to determine” if it might seek to acquire anything related to E Pluribus Unum.)
Finally, I asked Wilson if his experience with CICF made him less likely to engage with or accept public art commissions in the future.
“It might be too early to tell,” he said. “If you ask me now, no I dont’ think I’ll be doing another public commission because I just really, honestly do put everything I have into these things. I had not really wanted to do these at all actually, but when I was approached to do this one, but this was something I could really sink my teeth into. I had a great deal of support from [project commissioner and curator] Mindy Taylor Ross, and she understood the work and knows my work, so I really enjoyed working with her and it made sense then to go forward with [what became E Pluribus Unum]. I would say that I’m not going to seek out public commissions, but that’s my feeling at the moment. We’ll see what comes down the pike. I never say never, right?”