Puppets haven’t had their reputation helped much by horror movies. With Puppet Master, Annabelle and Dead Silence – among many other – portraying them as tiny murder machines; maybe we’ve been conditioned into finding them intimidating.
But this art installation by Jordan Wolfson isn’t doing anything to improve puppet’s reputation. On display at the London Tate Modern, the piece involves watching a traditional puppet toy being repeatedly smashed against walls by computer controlled chains attached to the head and limbs. The artist is attempting to show the true impact of violence; “Because I’m applying real physical violence to a figure even though it’s made of animated parts.” he explained.
Opened to the public at the start of the month, the puppet has a retro vibe alongside sophisticated tracking technology which locks its eyes eerily on watching visitors.
“I realized very early on that it wasn’t just the figure that was the sculpture: it was a total sculpture, where the chain was just as much a character as the boy,” Wolfson explained in an interview with Beatrix Ruf for Kaleidoscope in 2016; “It wasn’t just the boy being controlled by the chains; it was also about the chains having a relationship to the sculptural figure. Both elements were equally sculptural; what was important was looking at the entire artwork compositionally”
There is also an abrupt burst of music – the soul classic When a Man Loves a Woman, recorded by Percy Sledge in 1966. A voice seems to come from the puppet, reciting a cryptic list of sometimes threatening desires and actions. The figure can therefore be seen as both an aggressor and a victim.
More information on the exhibit can be found on the Tate Modern website.