Jordan Wolfson

  • Museum visitors watching Jordan Wolfson’s Real Violence, 2017, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June 20, 2017. Photo: Dan Bradica.

    Jordan Wolfson

    JORDAN WOLFSON’s art is an assault. His VR work Real Violence, 2017, exhibited at the Whitney Biennial earlier this year, stages a literal attack on both vision and ethics: It presents an all-encompassing scene in which a man, who closely resembles the artist, beats another man senseless. The result is not interactivity but isolation: For all the realism of the VR, viewers cannot intervene. No stills of the video itself have been released, so the piece cannot be seen in reproduction, as if it is a traumatic blind spot. The work pushes the hermeticism of the VR experience into a terrifying obliteration of both self and other—and yet, in doing so, creates an aesthetic experience that challenges technological control. Here, as he prepares to work on future VR projects, Wolfson talks to Artforum editor Michelle Kuo about illusion, experience, violence, and art.

    MICHELLE KUO: Real Violence is the first piece you’ve made in VR—which, right now, is generally still a high-tech and highly elaborate process. You work with a production team, and specialized equipment and software, and you ultimately create something for a headset that so far isn’t a mass-consumer device—it isn’t in everyone’s hands, like a phone. How did you approach the making of the piece and the immersive experience—the “realism”—of the technology itself?

    JORDAN WOLFSON: I think that if you look at VR for what it is, it’s uninteresting as art. I don’t actually think VR

  • Still from Jordan Wolfson’s Raspberry Poser, 2012, digital video, color, sound, 13 minutes 54 seconds.

    Jordan Wolfson

    WHEN I WORK with professional illustrators and CGI animators, I usually have a rough sketch of an intuitive idea or a preexisting image. I combine or isolate these as references for the animators, but often it is a combination of an image and an idea about surface texture or emotional frequency (happy/sad, violent/peaceful, hate/love) that directs the conversation between us. So for the image of HIV in Raspberry Poser, 2012, I sent the animators an example and asked for the surface texture to be increased in detail—making it almost grotesque but at the same time similar to a sticky, shiny


    To take stock of the past year, Artforum contacted an international group of artists to find out which exhibitions were, in their eyes, the very best of 2006.


    “Edvard Munch: The Modern Life of the Soul” (Museum of Modern Art, New York) In a rather cynical mode, I trudged uptown one day last spring to see the Munch show at MoMA for what I thought would be a cliché-ridden overview of Nordic gloom-goth. What I got instead was a hard punch to the gut: powerful color, radical ideas about the depiction of memory as space, paintings with emotional vanishing points rather than rational optical