Oracles, Owls…Some Animals Never Sleep Published in Meanwhile…Suddenly and Then, 12th Biennale de Lyon exhibition catalogue

The oracle says; There are secrets beneath things, within us and in the almost human. (excerpt from animation)

Oracles are entities that serve as portals to the hidden worlds and the connections that seem buried beneath the surface of things. Their messages are usually abstract or coded, which means that we have to learn how they speak. When we try to comprehend their messages and stories, we are not just discovering or conversing with these non-human beings, but learning their system, habitat and language. Oracles are also tricksters who tell us about the future while breaking the rules of coherence and proper conduct. This is what I find interesting about the trickster oracle: that it is a non-human voice that causes language, categories and identities to shake.

Rachael, leaning toward Rick, said, “How would you like to own an owl?” - “I doubt if I’ll ever own an owl.” But he knew what she meant; he understood the business the Rosen Association wanted to transact. Tension of a kind he had never felt before manifested itself inside him; it exploded, leisurely, in every part in his body. He felt the tension, the consciousness of what was happening, take over completely. Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1986)

In Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the protagonist Rick Deckark is called for a meeting at the Rosen Association. Here, he meets the Rachel Rosen and admires the owl that spurs the narrative onward. In the dust ridden decaying city, which is the setting for Phillip K. Dick’s novel, all animal life has become extinct and Deckard is characterized by a desire and longing to own any well-made artificial animal or even a real marvel such as this life-like bird. This is probably why the owl in ’s is invested with so much narrative weight. Although the scene itself is short the image of the owl in the film is haunting. As it flies silently across the room or sits still, eyes gleaming with orange light, it looks like a bird that holds many secrets.

He worked feverishly, sometimes nine or ten hours at a stretch. He was beginning to feel that the novel already existed somewhere and that all he was really doing was following the directives of the oracle to bring it to light. Emmanuel Carrère, I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick (2005)

A few years ago I saw Blade Runner by chance when I turned on the television in a hotel room in Amsterdam. I had seen the film several times before and also read Philip K. Dick’s book, but this time I was utterly fascinated by the owl. What I had seen made me think about the potential narratives concealed within the silence of objects. Later that night I decided to elaborate on this idea by adding an unruly voice to that otherwise mute and secretive creature.

Speaking in tongues, destroying machines, Gender on distant planets, then good fortune (Excerpt from the animation)

Oracle is based on Philip K. Dick’s novel: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In the installation several identical animated owls deliver a monologue of aphorisms and strangely latent fragments that might be prophecies from I-Ching or a feminist speaking in tongues. The monologues are interrupted by squeaks of compressed sound and distorted, dramatized samples from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Although it is at time menacing (like any oracle), it is also humorous, doubled and redoubled with its unsynchronized dancing and trance-like movements. The owl appears as a visually and linguistically unstable oracle. Speaking several different languages, it is engaged in a squeaky quest to address the notional coherence of self and gender.

Ann Lislegaard, 2013