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  • Christian Hain

Beat 'Em Up, Wolf-Son. Jordan Wolfson at Schinkel Pavillon

(Berlin.) The construction works all around Schinkel Pavillon are almost(?) finished, and we can start speculating about what will happen to the art space, once they truly are. For the time being, another show opened in mid-February. The opening night was actually the worst time to visit as the central work is a short film shown on VR glasses, and there are just two of them. Queuing is annoying in any context, but even more so in art, don’t you think? Unless you take it for a performance, or a social experiment: Spontaneously created, irregular, lines meandering through the circular space of Schinkel’s main hall, anarchic asymmetry voluntarily submitting to unspoken laws - it's not void of aesthetic appeal. There was plenty of time to contemplate, and the crowd impressive. Berlin art world had gathered again, nice to see this curator of Stoschek Collection or that PR person of Berlinische again, and so many artists. It was a week – and night - of (institutional) openings.

Virtual Reality, the future of video games and pornography. Art as well? Jordan Wolfson thinks so. For a (queuing) spectator, it might appear ridiculous, people blinding themselves, desperately holding on to a safety bar, or moving around helplessly under the watchful gaze of a helpful friend of Schinkel’s, their own eyes and half the face hidden under ski goggles (google glassholes never exactly took off). Finally, it was my turn, and it got violent. I won’t even mention my own glasses almost being broken in the process - I finally had to take them off, leaving me with only half-vision -, but what I saw was enough. You remember the elevator scene from Drive, Ryan Gosling beating that guy to pulp? Imagine it in 3D; VR 3D.

The film starts off slow and harmless, artificial worlds turning around for a bit before a street scene materializes, and two people meet. In the background we hear Arab chants (or Hebrew?). Not sure, if one is Wolfson himself, as suddenly they, or in fact: just one starts a fight. (Been queuing in an art show before?) His opponent goes down quickly which won't stop him, there’s a lot of blood and it doesn’t look CGI, but old-school ‘80s B-horror, or Trash Metal band, gore. I could not identify the car models passing on the street. Suddenly, so quick you won't even notice, the victim gets replaced with a puppet (crash test dummy/humanoid pinata), while the other continues to beat the sh-- out of him.

At one point, the image turned upside down and I’m not sure, if that was intended. Did I move in some unforeseen way, or are we supposed to get dizzy? (Did the glasses not “know” for a moment which part of my face was “up”? Kind of disrespectful.) Finally, all went black and it took me a microsecond or two to realize, the film was over and not I loosing consciousness. Real Violence is a discomforting experience, and probably more so for the form than the content. There is room for improvements in the technique still.

(Casual triggering: Two men fighting, does that already count for misogyny? Women have all the right to be violent too, yet this art film stays so very un-Hollywood-like.)

For the rest, there’s an installation: Two leather jackets dangling from the ceiling, the patches more cartoon than SoA (you want to detect traces of German Expressionism in that shouting face?), before a poster of (only two) witches with lightsabers for a nose burning letters in a cauldron. A wooden board and a chain - actual objects - complete the work. Good luck deciphering the iconography.

Upstairs a second film, longer than the first and more conventionally screened on a video wall. A collage of cartoon and other artificial characters, real life scenes, and a mix of both (Who framed Roger Rabbit?), the artist’s redheaded troll alter ego swimming in a coffee mug, animated chimaeras - Ratman, the coming superhero/villain? -, and YouTube samples. The soundtrack is dark, from Soul to Rap and later Dylan. Some violence again, a monologue on love and life (the artist was leaving as it started, maybe he cannot stand his own voice). Nudity and travesty too, it feels a bit like music video aesthetics. And that’s it.

Much ado about nothing?

Jordan Wolfson, 10 February-01 April 2018, Schinkel-Pavillon

World of Arts Magazine – Contemporary Art Criticism



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