Jordan Wolfson

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

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 piece of candy.

There’s a gap between the animators and me, and I like it—it helps. The space adds distance, and this distance generates images I couldn’t have created on my own (not because of the technical limitations but because of my own aesthetic limitations). I cannot control how the animators see the world.

The digital space in which these animators work is, in my imagination, a cold and indifferent void in which components are simply fabricated. But that’s not really true: It’s the animators’ personal space. It’s their own intimate place where things get made, with no value—value not in terms of money, but in terms of reason and physicality. It’s an isolation tank where limbs are grown, and I’m on the outside pointing and asking what’s possible.

Each animator has a specific skill set and aesthetic, and I like to mix and match them. For instance, the person I worked with on the condom image normally makes medical CGI models; I worked with a different freelance animator, who has a talent for bringing characters to life, on the virus; and with a firm called Dangnabit! on the hand-drawn animation cels.

I saw the video as a combination of these three elements, intertwined by a cut-up of layered editions. I wanted something fast paced and high energy that was lighthearted and optimistic, an artwork you could dance to. The condom was supposed to be similar to a jellyfish, the HIV was supposed to be joyfully anthropomorphized, and the cartoon boy was supposed to oscillate between rage and indifference.

It’s not about specific styles of visualization, but more generally about witnessing how the world looks today. How people working within the CGI visual industry outside art, for instance, make things or want to see things. Sometimes I’ll initially reject material because it feels too new or simply too foreign, because someone else has made it with their own specific constraints and liberties. That’s the distance and the conflict with newness. But I’ll force myself to wait a day or two, and often I’ll realize that this is how it should look after all. My way of seeing changes over the course of this process.

I see things in my mind, and they play out over and over again and accumulate changes. Usually, the first images stick, and then I do my best to follow through and let the animation process change the artwork along the way. If you ask what I like about the animations or what I ask for from the animators, the answer is that I’m always flexible, but must begin with that initial intuitive image. I just follow that, and we chip away together.

Jordan Wolfson is an artist based in New York.