Jordan Wolfson

Fresh from winning the Cartier Award, Jordan Wolfson talks to Wonderland to tell us what he has in store with his next project.

Contemporary American artist, Jordan Wolfson, splits his time between two of the most thriving art cities in the world, New York and Berlin. Having triumphed over more than 450 other artists to be crowned winner of the prestigious Cartier Award earlier this year, Wolfson will soon be bringing an ambitious new project to London. Open to artists from outside the UK, the Cartier Award provides the winner with the opportunity to present a major work at the acclaimed Frieze Art Fair as part of the Frieze Projects programme.

“Jordan’s unique brand of poetic conceptualism ranges across the sciences and humanities to create what are at once delightful and perplexing forays into the narratives and myths that colour our times,” curator of Frieze Projects, Neville Wakefield, said while congratulating the artist following his success.

Wolfson reveals he was “very honoured” to be awarded the prize, “considering how many people applied as well as the quality of the short listed artists.” His work is absorbing and often darkly comical. Water features highly in his work both in the background and as the main focus of many pieces and provides the soundtrack to 2001 piece, Neverland – a four minute loop video that utilizes the late Michael Jackson’s eyes from his 1993 ‘Live from the Neverland Ranch’ broadcast against a background formed from pixels of the stars nose.

When it is noted that a lot of his work features water, Wolfson reveals a terrifying near death ordeal led to this fixation. “When I was 8 years old I fell through the ice on a lake and had to be revived,” he recounts. “I have no memory of this, but have since been fascinated with water.” This incident may go some way to explain the apparent obsession with mortality that can be interpreted from some of his work, having been exposed to the fragility of life from such an early age. His mid-noughties piece, Dreaming of the dream of a dream (2004-2005) was a 16mm film of water that was replayed until it faded to nothing, giving the film clip a limited life that can never be renewed. And 2007s Perfect Lover, has a darkly apocalyptic feel. “I never have the idea of mortality in mind, instead I just try to make the work that I want to see”, he replies when asked if mortality and death are influences. “I try to imagine death being like before you were born,” he goes on. “I am actually not so afraid of death.”

That being said, questions of existence are at the forefront of his Frieze Art Fair piece. “The work will be based on String Theory,” he reveals. As science geeks and fans of cult movie, Donny Darko would already be aware; String Theory is a line of theoretic physics that aims to explain existence. For the rest of you, Wolfson hopes the experience of his artwork will help explain the idea.

“Visitors to the fair will have the opportunity to take a walking tour of the fair with a String Theory scientist where the basic concept of the theory is explained. The fair now becomes a kind of backdrop to this conversation and the conversation becomes the soundtrack to the fair. This conversation is recorded and transcribed into a screenplay which is re-enacted each following day in Regents Park as part of a short film based on all the conversations.”

It certainly sounds like an ambitious project, but one that is likely to delight the visitors of the Frieze Art Fair which continues to premier some of the most intricate, challenging and interactive art in the world.

Words: Seamus Duff

A full version of this article first appeared in Wonderland #19, Sep/Oct 2009


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