Jordan Wolfson
Jordan Wolfson, Real Violence, 2017. Installation view, 360: Jordan Wolfson at Zabludowicz Collection, London, 2018. Photo: David Bebber



Jordan Wolfson pulls intuitively from advertising, popular culture and digital technology to produce ambitious and enigmatic narratives often featuring animated characters. He works in a wide range of media, including video, installation, photography, and performance. In recent years this has expanded into large-scale animatronic sculptures and virtual reality experiences.

Interested in the formal process of combining disparate elements under the framework of his art, Wolfson unflinchingly presents contentious and provocative motifs relating to the American cultural landscape in particular. His film Raspberry Poser (2012), presented at Chisenhale Gallery, London in 2013, featured two main characters, a malevolent cartoon kid and a listless punk, the latter played by Wolfson himself. Edited in the endorphin-rush style of a music video, computer-generated HIV viruses bounce enthusiastically across the streets and interiors of boutique-lined SoHo, New York to Beyoncé’s ‘Sweet Dreams’.

Foregrounding the role of the artist as a builder of alternative spaces, Wolfson addresses serious questions around the complexities of the human condition and the fragility of bodies. Real Violence (2017) is an immersive virtual reality piece in which Wolfson directly addresses the ethics of representation. The viewer inside the headset is transported to a Manhattan street where they witness a representation of the artist brandishing a baseball bat at a man kneeling before him. The artist proceeds to beat and stamp on the victim as bystanders in the scene look on. A recording of a Jewish Chanukah prayer plays during the assault.

While a number of critics have been left uneasy by the lack of context or consequences in relation to the uncannily visceral scene, Wolfson argues that any real violence actually takes place in the real world outside of his precisely choreographed digital space. Wolfson makes an acerbic rebuttal to the utopian claims for VR technology as a tool of empathetic connection, instead insisting that the audience is made aware of the power of an artist (or corporation, or politician) to control and manipulate. Deliberately avoiding a moralising position he provocatively asserts the importance of art as a zone of extremes.