Jordan Wolfson


To the sound of etude-like pieces for piano played with a certain hesitance we move through the 3D animation «Infinite Melancholy» (2003) created by US artist Jordan Wolfson (born in 1980). In fact, we move across a visual patterned landscape created by the infinite repetition of the name “Christopher Reeve”. Our approach and distance to this landscape, which produces the essential spatial reality of film, is a matter of an oscillating movement through which acceleration and de-acceleration play a part in conjuring up for us the countless provocations that are triggered by the name “Christoper Reeve”. The marvelous progression between the direct quality of reading the pattern and the abstract infinity it forms is at the same time an encounter with the basis for a reality woven from our notions of emotions, values and narrations such as have been interpreted in the multimedia and manipulated by them. Christopher Reeve, four-times Superman actor and gentleman, condemned to live in a wheelchair for nine years following a tragic accident, stands for the dramatic and direct transposition of the myths produced in Hollywood’s dream factory into “real” reality. After the fateful accident and until his untimely death he worked for a paralysis foundation, championing in exemplary fashion research in this area, for example, in the hope of alleviating the suffering of his fellow paraplegic. In the animation, he becomes the renewed hero for a positive way of overcoming the ordeals of life and for altruistic commitment, a man who has been confronted by reality and survived the experience. The fact that, despite the real suffering, the real physical handicap, and his death, we nevertheless have difficulties in having “real” feelings or insights into this biography and this particular person’s life is the product of the perfection of multimedia permeation of our perception, for we live surrounded by and within the media construction of our very own reality. It is this sense that the “real” feeling or what we might imagine this to be, is always set in the inverted multimedia commas of irony, runs like a red thread through Jordan Wolfson’s oeuvre.

Always presented as projections, his works arise using widely different media technology, namely as computer animations, film or video. In a total of eight works to date he has addressed the images and mechanisms used by the media industry – the fruit of his labors are usually clip- like film pieces, that lead us with an image and an evocation into the doubtfulness, fragility and ambiguity of the patterns into which our emotions fall. In «Nostalgia is fear» (2004) artificial snow falls gently onto a silver 1972 Porsche 911, atmospherically underscored by a soundtrack with tear-jerking hits from the history of Pop (Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen, Heart Of Gold, Scarborough Fair/Canticle, Suzanne, Stairway To Heaven, Something's Coming, and the like); in «Procession» (2004) skiers dance on a white surface to a remix of Pink Floyd’s «Money»; «Neverland» (2001) fragments the 1993 Michael Jackson film «Live from the Neverland Ranch», reducing it to the eyes of the singer, the wander uncertainly and without coming to rest in a cream-colored blend of surfaces. In «The Crisis» (2004) we see the artist himself in a Romanesque church, enthusing about the great art works in history and at the same time doubting his own abilities given the greatness of these predecessors.

Wolfson’s investigations of media-made emotions and experiences are always characterized by what has since been termed a ‘post-ironic’ attempt to explore the meaning of moments really experienced. He endeavors to sound out sentiment, emotion and the authentic without the inverted commas placed around the “real” and without resorting to some neo-conservative reconstructions.

In the Kunsthalle Zürich he is presenting two works in the form of ‘exhibitions’ whereby the one follows after the other: the display of the above-mentioned animation «Infinite Melancholy» made in 2003 will be followed as of December 18 by a piece produced specially for the show and entitled «Dreaming of the Dream of the Dream» (2004). This looped 16mm film brings together found-footage from a broad variety of film sources that make use of the image of water – water as a motif for yearning, for life, for dreams. It is an image that in the course of the exhibition will gradually be worn down owing to the fact that only one roll of film is continually used for the projection and thus the images on it will slowly but surely disappear.

The Kunsthalle Zürich thanks: Präsidialdepartement der Stadt Zürich & Luma Stiftung