GUANTANAMO GEPETTO:JORDAN WOLFSON TATE TANKS

THEATRE 

Upon reflection, I am inclined to consider this bracing feat of engineering and computer programming as less a work of traditional art than a spectacularly effective theatrical stunt, the logistics of which are impressive. Impresario Jordan Wolfson offers up a segmented puppet, trussed up in chains, an elaborate hydraulic system sinisterly manipulating its movements, conjuring queasy images of torture and detainment. The figure is dragged across the floor, hoisted high then dropped violently to the ground in a sickening cycle of abuse. Although in appearance Caucasian (the artist has cited Huckleberry Finn, Mad magazine’s mascot Alfred E Neumann and enduring American childrens’ television character Howdy Doody as inspiration), the piece’s title of Coloured Sculpture complicates perceptions with allusions to racial and ethnic concerns of unjust treatment and discrimination by white authority (it’s impossible not to identify the imagery of lynching and drawing-and-quartering in what we see).A sudden, loud blast of Percy Sledge’s soul classic “When A Man Loves A Woman” startles onlookers and is just as abruptly cut off, a disorientation of dissonance, the use of the song perhaps suggesting yet another layer of meaning or intent-a dark psychology underpinning the behaviour of the central character in regards to the female, an inarticulate rage. At one point, the puppet floats over to the assembled audience and launches into a scalding itinerary of invective, facial recognition technology allowing its eyes to track individual members-maybe what we’re witnessing is actually a complex exorcism? The piece may be a jape at the absurdity of white male privilege, positing itself as pathetic victim while still carrying the currency of aggressor (the puppet as a physical piece is both vulnerable and durable). Quite beyond all the theory, the piece works simply as a bold, over-the-top achievement of performance installation. It may uncomfortably allow all your old Chucky (or similar doll-based) nightmares to resurface from wherever you may have thought them safely locked. The exhibition has now closed, but please visit my Instagram to view a few videos from my visit. You can  also find many video documents online.

https://www.tate.org.uk/press/press-releases/jordan-wolfsons-colored-sculpture-comes-life-tanks

 

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