Sadie Coles HQ Electric presents Jordan Wolfson’s 2004 video work The Crisis. The video depicts Wolfson, then in his mid-twenties, wandering through a medieval cathedral with a backpack, delivering his thoughts to a handheld camera in the style of a tourist recording a video diary.
Throughout the monologue, the artist meditates on the idea of greatness in contemporary art, cross-examining whether he will ever measure up to his iconic forebears. His excitement grows as he rhapsodizes about works that have made an impression on him – a sculpture by Robert Smithson, for instance, or a light installation by Olafur Eliasson that seems to find a momentary – if incidental – counterpart in the flickering candles of the cathedral. Thinking out loud, Wolfson moves from confidential whisperings to earnest professions: an orchestra strikes up in the background, and Handel’s Sarabande adds sudden and incongruous power to his soliloquy.
The ‘crisis’ suggested by the title is one of the anxiety of influence: Wolfson questions whether he will ever make a work as great as those of the artistic titans he has eulogised. At times disarmingly sincere, the video also tilts towards self-parody, navigating a fine line between ebullience and ironic precociousness. “The Crisis has a raw energy to me, pure and polluted at the same time”, Wolfson has stated, “and also, there’s an incredible, alarming narcissism”