Jordon Wolfson's larger than life puppet was certaintly uncanny however has he misssed a trick?
Jordon wolfson gives us the familiar: a traditionally characterful puppet: a young boy dressed in bright guerish colours evokes innocence and childhood memories. However, the puppet strapped up with heavy clunking chains and the body has become tarnished, the scrappy exterior provokes anxiety as it serves as evidence of figure getting bashed and dragged around. Wolfson isn't afraid of the uncanny; openly engaging with and displaying scenes of violence enacted by or upon his toy-like automata.
At the tate, uneasy feelings exasperate as the silence of the room is disturbed by the clunck of thick set chains, an outbreak of the classic Percy Sledge song When a Man Loves a Woman is both familiar and contradictory. the two connected through an interlude of Wolfson himself talking through the puppet, his words are less than comforting '“Five: To touch you … 13: I killed you. 14: You’re blind … 16: To lift you … 18: To weigh you…”
However in his attempts to disturb his viewer has he missed a trick? Wolfson constructs a puppet over 7ft tall into the Tate's (grand hall). However, does the scale of the puppet really add to its irksome quality or is the size more of a boastful exposure of the commissions expense?
Freud's contribution to the uncanny is that fear is provoked by familiarity. In the Uncanny, Mike Kelley argues that size is all important when he chose his exhbition material. Arguing that objects that successfully evoke the uncanny are those that are life sized. He argues that when a familiar object that represents a person is life sized is resembles more the thing it resembles more closely therefore we empathise more and then imaginative quality that we project onto the object is diminished. Thus, the object as a physical form does is more disturbing than if we had to imagine the object were real, then empathise. With this in mind, I wonder; would the puppet had more of an impact if it were less of a giant spectacle and more of a life size scene.
The puppet is not giant, nor is it life-sized. It is that trickt and non-impressive inbetween:
Indeed, Giant puppets are nothing new: Royal Delux have been touring their giant puppets with their most recent and final tour in Liverpool, October 2018. but these puppets are not uncanny, they are friendly and lovable they will be missed. So Wolfson wasn't playing on his automatons impressive size, because the size as his puppet is only 7 feet, yet his puppet is too big to be of human scale.
The slightly larger than life scale of the boy puppet diminishes the sculptures impact on the viewer. As a scene of violence and horror, to be effective
For Wolfson's to be effective, it depends on the empathetic relationship that the viewer has with the sculpture. in other words: the sculptures success depends on the amount of empathy that the audience are able to have for the puppet.
I believe that this is a play of semiotics: where the boy represents and signs Wolfson's themes of innocence, childhood, violence and power where as a lifesized doll becomes closer to being an index.
With greater scale, the puppet becomes more a giant spectacle rather than an idex. So a the sculpture depends on the imagination of the viewer rather than a powerful physical work that actively provokes an emotive and physical response in the viewer. However- its clearly a puppet not a young boy? emphasised by the non-realistic painting. This scale of puppet serves as a symbol of wealth as apposed to evoking a felt sense of empathy.
Never the less, suspended somewhere between empathy and disgust I am the guilty spectator, this piece drives my thoughts toward the uneasy relationship between violence and entertainment and the power dynamics that are involved.
Worn and battered, I start to feel sorry for the boy. He is on repeat, over 20 minutes of choreographed movement day on day. His shiny surfaces battered and dulled. They seem match the boys loss of energy- he had a little spirit and resistance on my first visit.