subota, 9. veljače 2013.

Jordan Wolfson - Animation Masks (2012)

Različiti kulturalni stereotipi i geštalti istovremeno supostavljeni u petlji/tijelu karikaturalnog "židovskog" Shylocka. Svaki "govor" je distorzija. Ljubav također.

Animation Masks (2012) at UbuWeb
“Animation, masks,” the 12-minute 29-second film that is the entirety of Jordan Wolfson’s New York gallery debut, has the hallmarks of a classic. It rejuvenates appropriation art through the incisive use of digital animation, achieving an intensity that rivets the ear and the eye while perturbing the mind.
Fluidly combining animation, photographs, clip-art and extraordinary color, this piece is like an exquisitely made Fabergé egg that explodes in your face. It contrasts various modes of representation, degrees of resolution and forms of aural communication (lovers’ pillow talk, poetry and song); implicates history and art history; and invokes several ethnic stereotypes.
Its only character is a jarringly stereotypical Shylockian Jew, with hooked nose, yarmulke, frizzed hair and beard and misshapen teeth, who is rendered in sleek high-definition animation (but only from the waist up). Sometimes benign, sometimes demonic, this gnomic cross between a Hasidic Woody Allen and a Semitic Yosemite Sam lip-syncs the sexy, whispered dialogue of a pair of young lovers that evokes the indie-film subcategory known as mumblecore, while executing repeated rap-music hand gestures.
Next, in a jump in D.I.Y. history, the voices of different people reciting Richard Brautigan’s 27-word, alone-and-happy “Love Poem” flow from his lips, its implications fluctuating with each speaker.
Meanwhile, images of largely white affluence abound. The Shylock character flips through recent issues of Vogue, whose crisp fashion spreads contrast with the grainy scenes that come and go behind him. Suggesting the rear-screen-projection and collage techniques of artists like Martha Rosler, Cindy Sherman and Laurie Simmons, these backdrops alternate lavish shelter-magazine interiors with decrepit loft building exteriors, à la Gordon Matta-Clark, conjuring SoHo’s mutation from artists’ haven to realtor heaven and, more generally, the rise of American materialism. Occasionally a succession of bright clip-art images flit across the character’s face, forming gorgeous masks that momentarily exoticize him.
Finally, he peers out over his magazine to the mellifluous strains of the great French crooner Charles Trenet singing his hit “La Mer.” His eyes turn soft, his mouth and beard are obscured. Suddenly he, too, has mutated, looking almost as sexy as the lovers sounded.
Mr. Wolfson, who specializes in film, installation and performance, is no stranger to mixing high and low culture, entertainment and social commentary. But he’s never pulled it off with such intellectual density or visual power, much less so perfect a balance of seduction and subversion. As the various parts of his explosive little film fly past, they are open to different interpretations but remain consistently sharp-edged and dangerous.  -

A concerned Jordan Wolfson fluttered around his opening at Alex Zachary Peter Currie last Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012, shushing the crowd. The gallery’s lights were off, so the faces of obedient, whispering patrons were lit only by the glow of the artist’s new 12-minute-long CGI video, Animation, masks, which played on a loop throughout the evening. Wolfson’s insistence on both silence and darkness, hardly ideal conditions for an art reception, seemed bold, and even brazen, at the time, but it indicates just how seriously he takes his own work -- in this case, a computer-generated cartoon.
Born in 1980 and the 2009 recipient of the Frieze Foundation’s Cartier Award, Wolfson has been the subject of more than one write-up in the New York Times, most recently a creampuff from Roberta Smith, who said that his new video has “the hallmarks of a classic.” He’s also a darling of Artforum’s chatty Scene and Herd” column, which covered the dinner following his show’s reception (it was held at the eccentric Ukrainian Institute at 79th Street and Fifth Avenue).
Wolfson and dealer Alex Zachary, who recently joined forces with fellow dealer Peter Currie, make a good pair -- Zachary opened his homey space in a townhouse on East 77th Street last year to comparable buzz, and has since been included on Forbes’ “Hottest 30 Under 30” list and given a shout-out by Whitney curator and former Artforum staffer Scott Rothkopf, for showing “off-beat” art. Wolfson’s work is certainly that, but despite a colorful, whimsical esthetic that belies its complex subtext, it is consistently smart, thoughtful and meticulously constructed.
At Alex Zachary Peter Currie, his exhibition consists exclusively of Animation, masks, a video he produced with a team of professional animators, including Henning Koczy and Craig Kohlmeyer. Its protagonist is, controversially, a character the artist compiled from Google Image searches for “evil Jew” and “Shylock,” literature’s most flagrant personification of anti-Semitism. The resulting mash-up -- unofficially called the Jew by Wolfson and his cohorts -- is not overtly sinister: he has kindly eyes set beneath heavy brows, a balding head crowned by a yarmulke, endearingly gnarly teeth, a wiry beard and a big, Semitic nose.
We find him, at the start of the video, harmless enough -- sitting with his back towards us in the dark while he flips through an issue of French Vogue. The glossy advertisements for Prada purses and L’Oréal wrinkle creams don’t seem to intrigue him much, and he rarely hesitates long before turning to the next one. The meaty stubs of his fingers fumble with the delicate cardstock; his thick neck is silhouetted against image after image of golden-skinned, ruby-lipped models, a contrast that highlights his remove from their beatific physical excellence.
Next thing we know the Jew is facing us and, speaking directly to the camera, schizophrenically adopting two different voices -- one seemingly male and the other female. He performs both as if they are in dialogue, keeping his eyes locked on ours while he forms his hand into a pistol and points it first at his own temple, and then at us. Things become increasingly lascivious: “Do you know what you want from me?” he oozes in a female’s scratchy soprano. “I want to have sex with you,” he replies, in a male’s breathy tenor, to himself. “Tell them how I am.”
The female voice responds with graphic details -- including her surprise at his ample size -- and the back and forth continues, punctuated visually by a sudden elongation of the Jew’s nose into a phallus. Meanwhile, the video’s black background has been replaced by a rotating catalogue of non-descript apartment interiors. We are witnessing the faceless enactment of a certain sort of relationship that is characterized by kinky, impersonal sex and the games it entails, and the Jew, a caricature himself, plays both parts with cold, disinterested detachment.
Inexplicably the video cuts again, and now our mercurial protagonist, still facing us, abandons his wayward lovers to adopt another series of disembodied voices, in which he recites Richard Brautigan’s Love Poem over and over again: “It’s so nice to wake up in the morning, all alone, and not have to tell somebody you love them, when you don’t love them, anymore.”
As he speaks, brand logos and images of cartoon characters flit across his face, temporarily masking him, and he flirts with the camera, raising an arm coquettishly above his head or turning to the side and gazing at us sidelong. Every element of the scene’s construction enhances the disparity between what we see and what we hear: the voices don’t match their speaker; the superficiality of the mass-produced, commercial imagery and the Jew’s impish posturing clashes with the melancholy cynicism of the spoken sentiment that accompanies them. As the video fades to black, we are serenaded by a deliciously ironic sampling of some classic French chanson.
Wolfson, though playful, is dark. The visual, aural and narrative disjunction viewers experience while watching Animation serves to reinforce the unsettling alienation that is also its subject, and, finally, its enduring message. The Jew himself is a stereotypical confection of what a Jew should, might or does look like -- political correctness notwithstanding -- and Wolfson places him in dialogue with a number of similarly artificial constructs, all of them projected by society as exemplars: the fashion magazine proffers paragons of beauty and style; the catalogue-perfect interiors represent the prototypical “downtown New York loft”; the logos and cartoons written all over the Jew’s face, in a manner of speaking, are symbolic of a specific sensibility, esthetic or type of humor. Surrounded by these various frameworks for success and happiness, the Jew is driven to madness -- and, as his adoption of so many anonymous voices might suggest, so are we all.
But aside from asserting the cliché demons of American materialism, what does Wolfson engage here? His main character revives the difficult, if complex figure of Shylock, whose use to poisonous ends is not confined to the sleeping annals of history, but rather lives on. Given that character’s attendant connotations, the artist’s intended application of him seems relevant -- are we meant to consider the Jew as a vacant sign, emptied of its history, representing “Stereotype” writ large? That reading is superficial, and even puerile, like a frat-boy’s joke. Does Wolfson see himself, somehow, in the Jew?
Amidst these questions, we are left to wander, but one thing seems sure:  “Love” in all its vagaries, from seedy lust to the tragic aftermath of committed romance, is just one more gestalt to which we are doomed to eternally aspire. To that end, we will put on as many proverbial hats -- or masks -- as it takes, and, Wolfson implies, probably fail to achieve it nevertheless. - EMILY NATHAN


Animation, masks (2011), a 12-minute video by Jordan Wolfson, is not easy viewing. Formally speaking, it deftly handles the relatively unexplored territory of animation in contemporary art, and if its subject matter weren’t so disquieting it could be more simply read as a technical study. Its content traffics in ethnic stereotyping, narcissism, class disparity and implied violence with a debatable ambivalence. In many ways, it is downright creepy – it slithers under your skin and scratches at your conscience. For these reasons, Animation, masks is a notable piece of work.
In the centre of the screen is an animated caricature of a balding Jewish man, with a large hooked nose, wiry black beard and yarmulke. He occasionally flips through a copy of Vogue. His elastic body moves through various repeated actions: making a gun shape with his fingers to point at us or himself; putting an arm coquettishly behind his head; leering whilst miming being on the telephone; or punching himself in the face. Sometimes his nose extends into a long droopy proboscis; at other moments his ears suddenly inflate. In the background cycles a series of still images, some of which look low-res or are turned on their side, depicting a range of interiors – chic loft spaces, messy working-class homes, suburban kitchens, grotty teenage bedrooms. For added contextual complication, the video – which was co-produced with Johann König in Berlin – was screened on a disgustingly big widescreen television in the middle of a royal-blue carpeted room.
The soundtrack really makes things awkward. First, there’s a scripted conversation between a man and a woman, the man asking her to ‘tell them what it’s like to be with me’. The cartoon protagonist mimes both sides of the conversation, which involves topics such as how playful the male speaker is in bed and the size of his penis. Then the figure ventriloquizes a recording of Richard Brautigan’s ‘Love Poem’ (1967). First we hear Brautigan reciting the short poem – ‘It’s so nice to wake up in the morning all alone and not have to tell somebody you love them when you don’t love them anymore’ – followed by the writer’s friends giving their versions, which tease out a variety of moods from the short verse. The video ends with a slow zoom as the cartoon character looks directly at us with a knowing smirk, to the accompaniment of Charles Trenet singing ‘La Mer’ (The Sea, 1946).
His physical gestures play out with no apparent connection to the soundtrack, which creates disturbing contrasts between what you see and hear – for instance, a tender conversation about sexual intimacy is matched with the figure leering and miming a gun. This is ramped up when Wolfson brings into play various ‘mask’ features, superimposing onto the contours of the character’s face a range of images including a cartoon bomb, an apple, blackface, Bart Simpson, Charlie Brown and the Compact Disc trademark.
The work’s aesthetic, which contrasts polished 3D modelled animation with pixellated imagery, rubs Pixar against Google Image search. Wolfson’s video demonstrates that animation can represent a great deal that live-action cinematography can’t, but it constitutes a field of image-making that is only just beginning to find some play in art discourse. Despite the work’s zippy digital chops, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Ralph Bakshi’s extraordinary 1973 film Heavy Traffic, which combined documentary photographs of run-down ’70s New York with grotesquely caricatured cartoon figures in a satire of inner-city sex, violence and racism. In also trying to express something about the urban environment and personal identity, Wolfson’s video headbutts its way into a complex matrix of representation: men speaking about women, middle-class artists speaking about upper-income or working-class living environments, Jewish artists (i.e. Wolfson) using ethnic caricatures to speak about all of the above. Add into the mix love and desire, being solitary or together with someone, and Animation, masks becomes a thick stew of issues.
When I asked Wolfson about the work, he said: ‘The character is a caricature, implicitly a cartoon. In the end, I feel it’s not a Jewish art work, but an art work that uses the Jew as one of many elements. The work is really about animation and what animation has the possibility to contain, which leads into a conversation about distortion.’ And questions of distortions – of where we’re speaking from, of what we’re really doing when we’re speaking, of how to speak with honesty and openness, and what extra permissions satire might give us – seem to me what Animation, masks is trying to ask.
Dan Fox 

With, Animation, Masks, currently on view at Alex Zachary Peter Currie, Jordan Wolfson presents a single, intensely engaging video on a large flat screen monitor, resting on a sea of electric blue wall to wall carpet covering the entire first floor of this unconventional uptown gallery. The sole focus of Wolfson’s 12 minute 29 sec piece is a grotesque, animated caricature of a middle-aged orthodox Jew, who recites Richard Brautigan’s Love Poem and, more affectingly, the intimate words of two young lovers, while flipping through a recent edition of Vogue Magazine. The confrontational scale of the character’s head on the massive screen and his uncomfortably seductive direct address calls to mind Vito Acconci’s Theme Song (1973) retooled for the emoticon era. Such sensitive dialogue would be wholly out of place coming from the mouth of any Pixar animation, particularly this one, but that seems to be part of the point and part of what makes the piece so successful. The inserted backgrounds and icons at times projected across the character’s face seem picked at random from an unknown Google image search. Even the character’s outlandish appearance, disturbingly lifelike hair and alternately aggressive and suicidal hand gestures, come off as a casual choices, just one option from a host of others. But these idiosyncratic decisions, so seamlessly executed, congeal into an unquestionable whole.
The unfamiliar combination of familiar elements somehow narrowly avoids being outright offensive, while resisting any clear form of social commentary, allowing the piece to remain open to various interpretations on repeated viewings. Wolfson’s approach to appropriation seems to share something in common with that of Jack Goldstein’s Bone China, Takeshi Murata’s I, Popeye, shown at the New Museum last year, and Frances Stark’s My Best Thing, currently on view at PS1.
Where some artists copy found images or objects in another medium as a way of absorbing and redirecting their power, these artists have co-opted a contemporary commercial process to create work that is not merely recycling popular icons, but actively engaging in the process of cultural production using the same tools as the source material that inspired the works. What sets Wolfson’s Animation, Masks apart, however, is the emotional depth he achieves by creating a profound sense of melancholy, which has become a hallmark of his work. There is something infinitely sad about Wolfson’s creature, whose appearance, words and actions are all equally out of sync – the avatar as an abused puppet – challenging the assumption that one cannot feel empathy for a being trapped in the uncanny valley.

Jordan Wolfson: "Animation, Masks" (still) at Alex Zachary Peter Currie, New York. January 15 - February 18, 2012
Alex Zachary Peter Currie’s odd Seventies-penthouse-turned-gallery space was the perfect space for Jordan Wolfson’s equally odd ‘Animation, Masks’. Let me try to reconstruct the scene: A giant flat-screen television sits in the center of the floor in the downstairs (former) living space, where visitors are invited to perch on a set of low steps to watch. Institutional navy carpeting covers the floor of the darkened room. The overall feeling of the space approaches the way a room feels on the first night of a move-in, before the furniture’s been unpacked and arranged or the former tenant’s carpet emphatically torn out. The TV is hooked up, the Chinese takeout is ordered, and the evening is spent in peaceful relative asceticism.
It was in this space that, over the course of a twelve and a half minute loop, I found myself enraptured by the metamorphoses of Wolfson’s avatar.
From start until finish of ‘Animation, Masks’, we are faced by an aged, cartoonish Jewish figure, the embodiment of an ages-old and much-abused stereotype with his wiry beard, huge nose, and yarmulke perched atop a balding crown. In his hands he holds a copy of Vogue magazine. Where his legs should be, there is nothing but an abruptly truncated torso, and without them he appears to float in space. Throughout the video, his kindly eyes are fixed directly upon ours, their smooth rendering in CGI lending them surprising depth. He is the video’s sole character, though by the end of it we know nothing ‘about’ him, so to speak. I will refer to him as ‘the Jew’, since he fashioned after that fictional being.
It’s difficult to efficiently re-tell what follows in the twelve and a half minute loop (I hope it comes to UbuWeb soon). In one scene, voice after voice recites Richard Brautigan’s ‘Love Poem’ through the Jew’s lips, as he makes coquettish sidelong gestures at the audience. In the background, pictures of rooms copied straight out of an interior design catalog or urban lifestyle journal tick past. At one point, familiar icons from consumer and entertainment culture begin to flit rapidly over the Jew’s face, conforming to his features like shadows, remaining recognizable only by virtue of their utter familiarity. In another scene, our character mouths a dialogue between two whispery lovers, while his expression transforms into a gruesome grimace and his nose temporarily elongates into a rubbery phallus. In another scene, the background darkens into an endless black, and we are given a deeply silent moment to flip through the pages of Vogue over the old man’s shoulder, skimming through editorials and advertisements with little time to contemplate. Near the end, he takes a moment to mutely commune with us: here, his hand becomes a telephone at his ear, then a gun pointing at our heads, and back again. The silence is impossibly silent until an old-timey French ballad erupts suddenly and brings the sequence to a close.
The video appears both utterly absurd and chock-full of hidden meanings. Its wildly disparate elements are brought together skillfully by Wolfson, and the work leaves no doubt about its own intentionality (the artist worked with a team of professional animators to achieve the high-quality, expressive CGI, and no doubt the effect took time to accomplish). What is not so clear is how we should understand its dizzying combinations of imagery, dialogue and reference points. Perhaps Wolfson is intentionally messing with us, teasing us towards some logical resolution in the work, when for all we can see there is none. Yet we can be counted on to try to parse it out — after all, constructing ordered systems out of otherwise chaotic sensory experiences is part of the definition of being human. But should this work be ‘read’ literally? Is it necessary to understand its various, moving parts as elements of a comprehensible whole? Can’t we resist making meaning where there is none?
I couldn’t help but flesh out ‘Animation, Masks’, taking its title as a start: masks, after all, appear everywhere here. The makeup and clothing products peddled by Vogue are a method for defining a personal style, as are the images of sparkling interiors touting an idealized urban lifestyle and the iconic brands that we see passing in quick succession. The logic of consumer culture dictates that publicly displayed belongings, declared tastes, and personal style make up an identity that can be donned and discarded at will. And then, the Jew himself can be seen as a kind of ‘mask’, as both stereotype and avatar. The stereotype is a cultural construction forced over the features of the unfamiliar, barring direct confrontation with the unknown and the misunderstood. And the avatar — that creation we bring to life in spaces like the internet — is a kind of digital ‘mask’ for the user, so to speak. Dozens of voices speak through this figure, but their bodies remain hidden; he is their temporary identity. This ‘loaded’ stereotype is, thus, an empty shell waiting to be donned by willing subjects, but entirely devoid of its own personhood.
The interior emptiness of our half-man echoes the sense of isolation and alienation that pervades this work very strongly. From beginning to end, its disjunctive pieces fail to come together. Voice and appearance, the verbal and the visual remain wildly out of sync. Brautigan’s poem brings this point home emphatically, repeated over and over again through the mouth of the Jew:
It’s so nice
to wake up in the morning
all alone
and not have to tell somebody
you love them
when you don’t love them
any more.
Even the lovers’ pillow talk lacks a sense of real connection. Their banter is sexually charged but not romantic — each seems more interested in their own pleasures than the other’s. As they each ask, “what’s it like to be with me?”, their dialogue becomes infused with the unreality of a bad movie script.
This alienation extends beyond the video’s contents and into the space between myself and the screen. As the action progresses, I begin lose grasp of all the work’s possible significations. I have decided to make some order out of the chaos with some typical commentary, but even so the center of the work remains out of reach. The thing that ultimately persists is a feeling — vague, melancholic, and deadly serious. Wolfson has succeeded in creating a complete enigma out of the cartoonish and familiar. He tempers randomness and disjunction with a careful hand, bringing it just to the brink of cohesion. Still, a small but impassable valley remains. - ninaculotta

Con Leche (2009)

Video, 22:29, 2009

-The title refers to the main subjects of the artwork: animated cartoon Diet Coke bottles filled up with milk. Shot on video in Detroit Michigan, the characters walk through the desolate streets in real video sometimes in groups and sometimes alone. The image wobbles, flips and turns inside of the video frame.

A commercial voice over actress speaks from texts Wolfson collected from the internet referencing identity, technology, memory and mortality most of which are personal accounts spoken in first person. Every few minutes Jordan Wolfson interrupts her giving basic formal instructions and adjustments distorting her tone, volume, and "sex".

Basics (2008)
Two channel video
Channel one 8:43
Channel two 13:53

Two channel. Channel one shows a mime alone in an empty photo-studio hysterically pretending to take a photograph while an audio track taken from YouTube of a young man's absurd diatribe on Islamic religion is appropriated. Channel two shows a recorded computer screenshot of a document being typed on the subject of essential kitchen appliances and communal cooking advice.

Untitled (2007)

The Crisis (2004)

Infinite Melancholy (2003)

I'm sorry but I don't want to be an Emperor--that's not my business--I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that. We all want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful. But we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men's souls--has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in: machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little: More than machinery we need humanity; More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me I say "Do not despair." The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress: the hate of men will pass and dictators die and the power they took from the people will return to the people, and so long as men die [now] liberty will never perish... Soldiers--don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you--who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder. Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don't hate--only the unloved hate. Only the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers--don't fight for slavery, fight for liberty. In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written "the kingdom of God is within man"--not one man, nor a group of men--but in all men--in you, the people. You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let's use that power--let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfill their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness. Soldiers--in the name of democracy, let us all unite! Look up! Look up! The clouds are lifting--the sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. We are coming into a new world. A kind new world where men will rise above their hate and brutality. The soul of man has been given wings--and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow--into the light of hope--into the future, that glorious future that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up. Look up. (2005)

Mixing and combining opposites, playing with analogies and ambiguity Jordan Wolfson creates a distorted mix of reality, imagination and cultural critique. He investigates the relationships of technology and media merged with his own personal experience, poetically balanced somewhere between pop and conceptual art.

Born in New York City in 1980, Jordan Wolfson recieved his B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2003. Since then Wolfson has divided his time between Berlin and New York. His work has been shown in several institutions: Kunsthalle Zürich (solo, 2004), Serpentine Gallery, London (2006), Moscow Biennial (2007), Tate Modern, London (2007), Swiss Institute Contemporary Art, New York (solo, 2008), Torino Triennale, Turin (2008), CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco (solo 2009), Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (2010), Centre Pompediu (2010). In 2009 Wolfson won the Cartier Award.

These videos are being made available for noncommercial and educational use only. All rights to this recorded material belong to Jordan Wolfson.

Art, Theory | Jordan Wolfson

Diet Coke bottlesCourtesy of Jordan Wolfson and Johann König, BerlinA still from “Con Leche” (2009), a video installation by Wolfson that features, in the artist’s words, “Diet Coke bottles filled with milk walking through an empty city.”
Jordan Wolfson’s video art raises more questions than it answers. At the Frieze Art Fair in London, which he attended after receiving the Cartier Award, Wolfson presented “Your Napoleon,” a performance in which visitors were individually guided through the fair by a theoretical physicist, who explained string theory for 45 minutes in front of other artists’ work. The lectures were baffling, awe-inspiring and frustrating, just as the art itself appeared to many of the uninitiated entering the fair.
Courtesy of the artist and Johann König, Berlin Wolfson’s “Your Napoleon,” a site-specific work presented at the Frieze Art Fair in October.
The next day, Wolfson directed actors as they read transcripts of the performance in Regents Park, throwing emotional responses into the pseudo-scientific mix as Wolfson randomly interrupted the earnest actors by barking the orders “Increase sex” and “Louder.” For true art folk, both iterations of Wolfson’s piece brought back the early challenge and pleasure of grappling with daunting new material.
Wolfson — a New Yorker living in Berlin and New York — is curiously not represented by a gallery in New York. But he has a plum place in Galerie Johann König, Berlin’s tastemaking space run by the young German dealer whom ArtReview named one of its 100 most powerful people. Wolfson’s solo show of new work runs there through the end of January 2010.
The Moment caught up with Wolfson before he jetted off to a Caribbean vacation.
Jordan WolfsonTina Tyrell Wolfson at work.
Do you have set interpretations or resolutions for your work, or are you hoping to inspire viewers to create their own understanding of the material you give them?
Definitely not. I like the viewers to do the interpretive legwork.
What is your relationship to string theory?
My relationship is split in two. Primarily, I was trying to approach string theory as a kind of cultural symptom. One of the problems of being human is that we want to understand, describe and justify reality. Maybe it’s pathological. Probably. However, if this project had been made 25 years ago, then it might have been centered around the Big Bang or the theory of relativity. So it’s not specifically about string theory, but instead more about looking at culture and how we decode reality.
Would you compare Brian Greene to Jerry Saltz or Simon Schama in that they convey the passion of their discipline to a more general public but are often dismissed within their own communities for being too popular?
Possibly. … A lot of it is based on charisma but also a kind of bravery and hunger. But all of the people you’ve mentioned are active and have made real contributions in their field beyond having a populist identity.
What are your main concerns and influences for the look of your films?
It is always changing. I steal a lot from commercial advertising. I’m usually very concerned with how my source material is made or the actual materials that it was shot on. All of these details instill generational codes into the work. There then develops a kind media carbon-dating holding all of these codes and sigmas crossing generations in place. Also, I’ve got a terrible attention span, so I try to make my work as focused and precise as possible.
An excerpt from “Con Leche” (2009).
You have referenced particular iconic celebrities in your work. What is the appeal or value of these particular people to you?
It’s really the same as the way that I approached string theory. It is not about the specifics of the individuals that I reference; rather about how their persona functions in popular knowledge, shapes a kind of abstract metaphor or becomes a part in a greater generational portrait. Rowley Kennerk, my gallerist in Chicago, said that he sees some of my work as thermometers for culture. He was being critical, but in the end that’s what I want — but I also want to avoid anything solidifying.
Why do you want to avoid saying anything concrete?
I’m just not interested in using the position as an artist to dictate anything. I consider myself one my viewers, and it would be paradoxical to speak simultaneously to myself and others. I like to think that being an artist is neither an entertainer nor a doctor.
What emotion do you most want to inspire most in your viewers?
That’s not a concern, really. I think emotions are too subjective and it’s wasteful to control the viewer. I think it’s more about creating a frequency of tension in the work that connects in different ways to different people.
How do you think your success as a young, cool artist has affected your work, your attitude toward the art world and your thinking about yourself as an artist?
I really don’t think of myself like that. I’d hate to be called cool. In terms of exposure, it was a bit strange at first because all of the work was made for my friends and I. I never thought that it was going to be seen on a wide scale. But now I am used to it and probably take it for granted. As far as the art world, I’ve got mixed feelings. It’s a very political system, and people take friendliness for desperation and boredom for pretension. It’s backwards socially, but at the same time there isn’t a more free position.
What would be the ideal “free position” for you to present your work?
All of it is free, because it’s the only job you can’t be fired from. The only part that’s not free is being the artist because in many ways it’s not a choice and it’s a continuous struggle within yourself to make work. It’s very difficult to make art but also a difficult choice to try and stop.


Jordan Wolfson: Raspberry Poser at REDCAT

Jordan Wolfson, still from Raspberry Poser, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Johann König, Berlin.

Jordan Wolfson: Raspberry Poser

The world of Raspberry Poser, a new video by New York-based artist Jordan Wolfson, is inhabited by silvery heart-filled condoms, mutating red blood cells, a lock and key in coitus, a listless punk, a destructive shapeshifting kid and a rubbery anthropomorphic HIV virus. Set against a backdrop of still and moving images and a pop soundtrack, the actors and animated objects float, bounce and pulsate from one scene to the next––their rhythmic activities framed by Soho boutiques, children’s bedrooms, Parisian parks and the paintings of Caravaggio. The systems of reference in Wolfson’s Raspberry Poser are varied and disparate, but linger on the inherent flatness of hand-drawn animation and the illusion of depth and realism afforded by recent advances in computer-generated imagery (CGI). Seemingly limitless in possibility and scope, the video’s scenarios draw upon the technical abilities of commercial animators to create worlds and forms based in life and digital images but with no binding reality.
Employing materials culled from Internet image searches, the artist’s own lived experience and the histories of art and popular entertainment, Raspberry Poser touches upon and undermines the gravity of such pervasive themes as life, death and love. An assembly of found images, sampled music, commissioned animations and scenes filmed on location in Paris and New York are subject to a series of formal strategies borrowed from the history of animated cartoons, including a disregard of the fourth wall through direct address; the endless repetition and mutation of form; a malleable and permeable cinematic frame; and the appearance of depth on a layered two-dimensional plane. Through these means, Raspberry Poser considers the developments of digital and analog animation as essential to the histories of modernism and modernity, responsible for shaping and relaying the concerns of sculptural and pictorial modes of representation since its invention and defining our relationship to images and objects.
The third in a trilogy of recent animated works that includes Animation, Masks (2011) and Con Leche (2009), Raspberry Poser is Wolfson’s most ambitious synthesis of digital video, CGI and hand-drawn animation. The presentation of Raspberry Poser at REDCAT is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles and is accompanied by a publication, co-produced by REDCAT and the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent, Belgium, with contributions by Esther Leslie, Aram Moshayedi, Linda Norden and Philippe Van Cauteren.-

Fresh from winning the Cartier Award, Jordan Wolfson talks to Wonderland to tell us what he has in store with his next project.

Contemporary American artist, Jordan Wolfson, splits his time between two of the most thriving art cities in the world, New York and Berlin. Having triumphed over more than 450 other artists to be crowned winner of the prestigious Cartier Award earlier this year, Wolfson will soon be bringing an ambitious new project to London. Open to artists from outside the UK, the Cartier Award provides the winner with the opportunity to present a major work at the acclaimed Frieze Art Fair as part of the Frieze Projects programme.
“Jordan’s unique brand of poetic conceptualism ranges across the sciences and humanities to create what are at once delightful and perplexing forays into the narratives and myths that colour our times,” curator of Frieze Projects, Neville Wakefield, said while congratulating the artist following his success.
Wolfson reveals he was “very honoured” to be awarded the prize, “considering how many people applied as well as the quality of the short listed artists.” His work is absorbing and often darkly comical. Water features highly in his work both in the background and as the main focus of many pieces and provides the soundtrack to 2001 piece, Neverland – a four minute loop video that utilizes the late Michael Jackson’s eyes from his 1993 ‘Live from the Neverland Ranch’ broadcast against a background formed from pixels of the stars nose.
When it is noted that a lot of his work features water, Wolfson reveals a terrifying near death ordeal led to this fixation. “When I was 8 years old I fell through the ice on a lake and had to be revived,” he recounts. “I have no memory of this, but have since been fascinated with water.” This incident may go some way to explain the apparent obsession with mortality that can be interpreted from some of his work, having been exposed to the fragility of life from such an early age. His mid-noughties piece, Dreaming of the dream of a dream (2004-2005) was a 16mm film of water that was replayed until it faded to nothing, giving the film clip a limited life that can never be renewed. And 2007s Perfect Lover, has a darkly apocalyptic feel. “I never have the idea of mortality in mind, instead I just try to make the work that I want to see”, he replies when asked if mortality and death are influences. “I try to imagine death being like before you were born,” he goes on. “I am actually not so afraid of death.”
That being said, questions of existence are at the forefront of his Frieze Art Fair piece. “The work will be based on String Theory,” he reveals. As science geeks and fans of cult movie, Donny Darko would already be aware; String Theory is a line of theoretic physics that aims to explain existence. For the rest of you, Wolfson hopes the experience of his artwork will help explain the idea.
“Visitors to the fair will have the opportunity to take a walking tour of the fair with a String Theory scientist where the basic concept of the theory is explained. The fair now becomes a kind of backdrop to this conversation and the conversation becomes the soundtrack to the fair. This conversation is recorded and transcribed into a screenplay which is re-enacted each following day in Regents Park as part of a short film based on all the conversations.”
It certainly sounds like an ambitious project, but one that is likely to delight the visitors of the Frieze Art Fair which continues to premier some of the most intricate, challenging and interactive art in the world.- Seamus Duff

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