Jun 12, 2012

Jordan Wolfson, Midway

Link to images (Midway Contemporary Art)

Ends of strings lying in the light that lead off into darkness.

The repeating motif is the insertion of image, symbol, into another, overlays that wrap themselves around: the anal boys onto/into crab claws, the bomb/Bart Simpson onto the man's face, voice overs, backgrounds, token emotions, more voice overs, everything gets embedded into something else: miscegenation.  Everything into everything else.
The references, symbols, emotions, personas are easy enough to pinpoint, tack, and label.  But they cycle over each other, piling up and nearing systemization, supposing the endless permutations of the bits (each a variable in a matrix) multiplying exponentially, 5xIt begins to pile up very fast.  It is ironic, it's not. It is aggressive, it's not. Sensitive, void. mean, stupid... laying over and over itself, back to the beginning with the chorus.
The work begs to be summarized. All of it, each "bit," invites projection and metaphor, and more-so asking to be deconstructed. He teases you, asking you to say anything. The animation's face mocks your own, mocks you. a mask of you.  Daring you to become indignant, to feel something, to enter into its game. The urge to read into, to decipher, is made enormous, versus the felt impossibility of doing so, is unbearable.

You’re blindfolded in the night, being led into water whose surf your legs can feel drop into very turbid and impetuous waters.   

 And if we move to a high enough vantage, above all the filth this subtextualsurface disappears and we are left only with the image, the video plane, a high definition and hyperreal and beautiful image that drifts over time, an image, squealing across the glass.

A boy who is all testicles.

Even the video in the second room, whose symbols are limited and slowness begs for it to be thought (this is meaningful!), but a still surface inferring little about its depth or treacherousness. 
: Lobster claws printed with photos of naked men, blonde boys cheeks spread, buttholes agape, a boy who is all testicles, dicks near mouths, printed on lobster claws rubber banded shut, the ultra slow motion reach and grasp, the claws and another enter with a straight razor blade, cut the band.
It happens at the speed of glass flowing, it pauses, it reverses (slightly), are you seeing this or it in your head?, is the hand paused or the video?, slicing, pause, the blade, until the anti-climax (bathos) of the band freed and snapping. The hand pulls back and we are again left with the anuses of young beautiful men in timid ecstasy.
Again we could start to pick this apart: lobster, Broodthaers, porn, release, climax, moment, slowness, time, non-transgression, image, entering a thin but convoluted fog difficult to envision/foresee where these points/subjects intersect, which they assuredly, and with defeat, do, always ill at ease and tenuous.   

Its a Trap!

A thousand clever conceptual and structural fireworks to be unpacked.  Like a perfect villain who creates the hero thereby affirming his/her own existence.  Asking you to say anything.  I’m writing about it because it is easy to write about. Jordan Wolfson, sophisticated art-world troll
It is easiest, and an escape, to say yes to these things. It's easy to say what is perfect about it. Others  summarize Wolfson's postion with ease.  Phillipe Vergne:
“Wolfson traverses a fragile line between his ability to manipulate an emotive response in his audience, and his formal exigency in which no subjectivity is put on display. 
...Skepticism towards language and representation makes Wolfson's work an exercise in elegant subversion that sets him in the tradition of classical cynics, whose philosophy was motivated by an intellectual and ethical disposition to disbelieve.”
And how this summation makes the vacuous drowning feel no less present, allows for no recourse.  This is not leaving us quietly unfooted the way Joe Scanlan leaves Felix Gonzalez-Torres quietly unfooted, but rather makes us question whether we can feel anything at all. And to say no, then, is to enter into the labyrinthian aggregate of red herrings. And like classic cynicism it leaves only Wolfson in a position of stability. It is always there to recoup your "no," your deference, or indifference, or indignance.  Any response but yes it is ready to absorb, and recoup. Any unpacking it is ready to defeat, with sodden boxes. Its ability to feed and sustain itself on a viewer’s antagonism. Already naming things becomes treacherous and we begin to feel as if the ground is comprised of a rugs, always ready to be pulled, to feel stupid in our incorrect assumptions. "It's actually a Brautigan Poem." and be mocked by that face.  
In this it mirrors our entrenched political and economic/capitalistic (and, with that, our esoteric cultural production) moment, our inability to say anything but yes, the easy and incessant affirmation, every purchase and artwork made. (Can an artwork ever really voice skepticism over itself, or over its domain. Being made within the system isn't it always a silent affirmation reproducing the system that it exists in?)  Saying no confronts an array of very precarious positions that seem impossible. To be unaware of the game, the Crisis over the naiveté of saying no, ignorant idealism.  Can you imagine the idea of saying no to capitalism? We become hippies with signs. Capitalism’s infinite concealed connections, veiled dialectics. And yet the affirmative (which is not even registered as such) immediately grants an implicit pass. We need a Marxist.  
that dominated classes rarely need an explanation of the laws of exploitation, and that explication risks removing the strangeness of the intolerable character of the world.
"Indeed, it seems as if the time of consensus, with its shrinking public space and effacing of political inventiveness, has given artists and their mini-demonstations, their collections of objects and traces, their dispositifs of interaction, their in situ or other provocations, a substitutive political function. Knowing whether these 'substitutions' can reshape political spaces or whether they must be content with parodying them is without doubt an important question of the present."
Is wolfson's problem real, or does it simply mirror the difficulties of the world around it albeit in a highly compressed and succinct manner? Risks destroying the intolerable character of the world, because it makes the artwork weirder than the world. By making the the artwork as strange or stranger than the intolerable character of the world Wolfson risks a desensentizing of our resitant character. It destabalizes in a unanswerable manner, one where the problem itself isn't even stated clearly. It instills an unknowing and uncertainty, crippling becuase it can not be thought. It instills a relinquishing, a defeat. It reproduces itself beautifully. The final boss: Cynicism.
This is good art, great art even, but bad politics.
When everyone is left puzzling over Wolfson's enigma while he runs off and is that this very moment sipping champagne he risks losing his status as dastardly villain, and becoming just another jerk to be passed off as servicing the art-world.  That we become so resilient to his pestering, that we simply ignore him as the jet setting art world jester peeing on people and leaving his mask in his wake. Wolfson makes for a perfect "you need me" destabilizing villain. While we, obviously, are the heros. But isn't it the Joker who is the hero of the artworld?   Isn't the Batman the hero of the authoritarian police-state system, patriarchal values?  Isn't it the Joker who spares the Francis Bacon painting, and the Batman who drives around in militarized police vehicles?  The Joker who deterritorializes the Batman, the Joker who asks everybody, Why so serious?, the Joker who is queer?   The Batman the stand in for the killer elite, black hawk helicopters in the night, the judge and the jury, the fascist cop?  Are we the militant police? Is there a lure dangling from my lips?

I hate it becuase it’s perfect.  I must like it because I hate it. It is perfect because of this.  

I think it is important to find an exit.  Not to be able to say that these images, symbols, aren't connected, that these things don’t go together, that the maze doesn't make sense, they do, but rather that there is a way out, a way of saying no to this thing. To try and not write about it, to write around it, probe it, hold it at a distance.
A way out a way out a way out.
Rather than being able to formulate a good or bad, a critical judgement, or before even asking if we can make a critical judgement, or before even trying to find a way out, an alternativewe stop before we decide to produce a judgement, we say it only is what it is, it, like an animal, is incapable of being inethical or ethical, it simply is, and thus is the way of world, and that’s a state, the state, and that makes for a pretty sad artwork. 

Santa Cruz screaming hands, a drawing of an desiccated elderly man, a room. 

*1( It is only those in a position of power who are able "apprehend" it through a symbolic or literal ownership. By owning the work (or by curating it), one is granted a pass of apprehension, of having digested it. It's that odd capatilist paradax, that those who own, who make purchase, who say yes, are granted having understood. It's a brilliant move on Wolfson's part, that the only way to claim it as defeated, sublimated? assimilated?, is to pass it on to others, to own it symbolically, to say yes. its that great Bourdieu quote, that those who earn educational degrees, markers of symbolic/instituional capital, are the ones allowed to be ignorant.)