EN: Performance is a recurring theme in your work. Your 2005 film Godville involves interviews with a series of actors in colonial Williamsburg, a living-history museum. You’ve edited the piece so that they seem to slip between roles, sometimes playing themselves and sometimes speaking in character.
OF: That particular work is very transparent about what it does. And the staccato editing that you see is the most direct indication that these people’s speech has been tampered with, and that—perhaps like puppets or ventriloquists—they’re channeling something else. Whether that something else is me, or “me” in big old quotes, doesn’t matter as much because the visual perception of what’s happening immediately informs you that there is some other villainy afoot.
In that particular work, the subjects are Frankensteinian, in a way. They’re literally stitched together in order to create something other, something in between what I want them to say and what they want to say, and how they say it when they’re pretending to be 18th-century figures and how they’re saying it when they’re being themselves. And since all those boundaries are blurred, what you have in the end is grotesque, something that is a composite, a hybrid—and that is what I’m after.
EN: What about the responsibility of conveying something that is truthful, something real?
OF: I guess I don’t feel that responsibility. My notion of identity is so imminently linked to performance and codes—and that doesn’t mean that I don’t think this notion of truth exists. But when I’m making my work, I’m sitting across from people, and if I’m talking to somebody, we’re both, in a sense, performing, just like you and I are right now. And none of it is prefaced by some larger truth hovering over us. That really doesn’t interest me. What I’m much more interested in is the mechanics of performance, and the codes that we employ to tell our stories.