Oracle references the name of the eponymous small town in Arizona that was the site of one of the largest protests in the U.S. against the migration of unaccompanied minors from Central America. In Oracle, Okón attempts to give voice to the multiple and often widely dissenting positions surrounding the migration of tens of thousands of children, a phenomenon that reached unprecedented numbers in 2014. The artist visited Oracle in 2014 and met with leaders of the AZ Border Defenders, a group composed primarily of former members of the military and police, who undertake the mission of protecting the U.S border from those they deem trespassers. Against the odds, Okón arranged for a reenactment of the protest held in 2014, capturing on camera group members as they march holding bright yellow signs with the words “Stop Invasion.” In contrast, Okón also includes a scene with nine Central American children, held in a detention center for unaccompanied minors, as they sing a hymn reminiscent of the one sung by the U.S. Marines. With their backs to the camera, the kids perform a different version of the hymn, narrating instead the history of U.S.-led invasions throughout Central America, the root cause for many of the migrations north. This work is a sequel to Octopus (2011), in which Okón restaged scenes from the Guatemalan Civil War with day laborers he encountered at a Home Depot in Los Angeles, many of whom had fought in the war. In both works, Okón encourages viewers to relate historical events with current debates on immigration.
– Elena Shtromberg