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Jordan Wolfson

Interview

Soldiers would travel great lengths to speak to her and learn their fortune – fortune itself also being a concept of that time.

 

The Oracle of Delphi speaks in tongues. The Oracle of Delphi speaks nonsense, speaks not in riddles exactly, but speaks a text that is channeled from beyond. In this way the oracle of Delphi is an instrument, a receiver of a transmission. She becomes an object at the moment of transmission and the message passes through her.

 

In the financial district in 2005, at a Chipotle, Jordan described the film he was making for the 2006 Whitney Biennial. At RISD, Jordan had refused to leave the sculpture department even though he only made videos. He told the annoyed professors he was not interested in making objects but was still making sculpture.

 

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Over the burrito bowl, a typical Libra meal of that era, Jordan described his film for the Whitney Biennial. It would feature a single shot using black and white 16mm film of a man in a tuxedo, filmed from the neck down, using sign language to speak the final speech from Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 film The Great Dictator. In this film Chaplin plays both a Hitler-esque dictator and a Jewish barber who is a Hitler-esque dictator look-a-like. In the final scene the Jewish barber has been mistakenly put on stage as the dictator before a huge crowd of soldiers and he delivers a message of peace and brotherhood instead of the message of war. To Jordan this scene must have been above all a fantasy of the most powerful position of direct address.

 

For his film, Jordan put Chaplin’s words in the hands of–actually inside of the hands on–a headless tuxedoed sign language interpreter. The movements look spasmodic. The movements look like mad indecipherable speaking in tongues but speaking in fingertips. It looked like the gibberish of the Oracle.

 

Speaking in fingertips, the Oracle of Delphi speaks beyond riddles, even though her transmission was packaged by the officiants surrounding her as messages, almost slogans, “Go, return not die in war,” confusing bumper sticker sounding prophecy. A bumper sticker Empire, Fortune, throne–a message to adorn your shield with, to adorn the bumpers of your cars with. Speaking in bumper sticker tips.

Phalanxes of men seeking Fortune. The Oracle, she passes the message through her body and becomes a figure object which animates. She’s the wizard machine Zoltar form the Tom Hanks movie Big. Would you like to hear your fortune? The spasmodic chaotic moment of prophecy must encompass a profound empathy–or not? To err is human, but let’s skip forgiveness here, to be inhuman is divine. But does being inhuman mean being without error?

 

Can the inanimate object? How can it object if it’s an inanimate object?

 

Instead of speaking to your doctor about dreams, you enter her office and she begins gargling syllables at you. Normally the therapist listens, but here you are listening to her. She’s speaking entirely unintelligibly but every once in a while some hand gesture or eye contact make you think you understand her.

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What if she becomes angry and screams some witchy brouhaha at you? It’s part of your therapy. It’s part of your fortune and she begins really screaming some really witchy brouhaha. The petulant Oracle stomping its feet like the milk-filled diet coke bottles in Wolfson’s “Con Leche,” gnashing its teeth wearing the grin of the Shrek-looking Shylock Jew in “Animation Masks.” The way that falling figure, that Huckleberry “Colored Sculpture” has eyes that look at you from beyond the grimacing visage.

 

Anger comes through as a pure emotion and presents itself as part of a larger sequence of processing emotions. But if the Oracle in the moment of prophecy is inanimate – how do we trust her animating anger?

 

In my opinion Jordan’s most recent Oracle-like sculpture poses the question, “Do you throw a fit or does a fit throw you?”



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