Jordan Wolfson uses video, film and conceptual strategies to experiment with the information that surrounds us and the ways in which we receive and appropriate it. Borrowing images and references from different sources, he mixes their content or format in unusual ways, creating installations which use irony to convey cultural and political commentary .
For the Whitney Biennial 2006, Wolfson presented a 16mm film, which takes its 713 word title from Charlie Chaplin’s utopian last speech in ‘The Great Dictator’ (1940)*. Wolfson's film takes two contradictory approaches: Chaplin’s political idealism and Danish filmmaker Jørgen Leth’s meditation on man’s downfall in his experimental film ‘The Perfect Human’ (1967), to question the possibilities of political agency today.
Perfect Lover (2007) is a 3 minute, 16mm film depicting an animated crow that calls out the passing hours of the day until it gets confused and starts all over again. Although the ominous countdown reminds us that time is running out, the crow looks cute and friendly, offsetting the foreboding subject matter of the work. Here Wolfson presents a conceptual yet playful dark humour that pervades his work.
Born in 1980, Jordan Wolfson lives and works in New York. Recent exhibitions include The Exhibition Formerly Known as Passengers, CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco (2009); Untitled False Document, Swiss Institute, NYC (2009); Learn to Read, Tate Modern (2007); T2 Torino Triennial, Torino (2008) and the Whitney Biennial, NYC (2006).
Jordan Wolfson is the 4th recipient of the Cartier Award, a major initiative led by Frieze Projects in collaboration with Gasworks and sponsored by Cartier.
At Frieze Art Fair 2009, Wolfson presented a nomadic seminar on the subject of String Theory that took the form of a walking tour of Frieze Art Fair. Each tour, strictly limited to one person at a time, was guided by a theoretical physicist from Queen Mary University, London, who casually explained the concept of String Theory. The team of physicists was headed by Dr. David Berman, Reader in Theoretical Physics at Queen Mary University, London, and expert in String and M-theory. Each tour was recorded and then transcribed to form the basis of an ever changing, ever growing script that was reenacted by two actors and directed by the artist in Regent’s Park the following day.
In 2009 the selection panel consisted of Neville Wakefield (Curator, Frieze Projects), Grazia Quaroni (Curator, Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art), Catalina Lozano (Residencies Coordinator, Gasworks) and Mario Garcia Torres (Artist).
*I’m sorry but I don’t want to be an Emperor—that’s not my business—I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that. We all want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful. But we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls—has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in: machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little: More than machinery we need humanity; More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me I say “Do not despair.” The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress: the hate of men will pass and dictators die and the power they took from the people will return to the people, and so long as men die [now] liberty will never perish.… Soldiers—don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you—who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate—only the unloved hate. Only the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers—don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty. In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written “the kingdom of God is within man”—not one man, nor a group of men—but in all men—in you, the people. You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let’s use that power—let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfill their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers—in the name of democracy, let us all unite! Look up! Look up! The clouds are lifting—the sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. We are coming into a new world. A kind new world where men will rise above their hate and brutality. The soul of man has been given wings—and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow—into the light of hope—into the future, that glorious future that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up. Look up. Charlie Chaplin, “The Great Dictator” (1940)