What's It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospect

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Artist William Wiley has generously allowed his film works to be published here on the occasion of his exhibition What's It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospect at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.

    "I identify with Fellini's Character in 8 1/2 who says, 'I don't have anything to say but I want to say that." --William T. Wiley

The questions that Ludwig Wittgenstein asks about how we categorize and understand concepts point to the intricate web of associations that constitutes our attitudes and responses to objects we encounter in our daily lives. William Wiley's wanting "to say that" captures his playful treatment of language, performance, and the image, an approach that conveys the uncanny quality of a bricoleur who gathers into his artwork a free-assiciating mix of words, gestures, and figures. A body of films that Wiley created between 1963 and 1974, in particular, stands out for the way they employ image and sound to offer observations about the world around us. With a delicacy and sureness of touch, the films that Wiley either contributed to or directed, including Plastic Haircut, The Great Blondino, The Off Handed Jape ... & How to Pull It Off, and Man's Nature, playfully interrogate the fictions we create and how we pose ourselves within those fictions. These films explore how stories and attitudes that we knit together further reflect the myriad sources of information and experience that make up our daily existence and invade our dream worlds.

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