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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.

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

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 is a compelling art medium.

So in Real Violence, I tried to negate all the given qualities of VR. The original idea for the work was that you were in a nondescript parking lot, and you walked into a scenario where a group of people began assaulting you, and the longer they assaulted you, the

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