MAP

Jordan Wolfson: In Search of the Whale

Hans Ulrich Obrist and Jordan Wolfson take a taxi to the Museum of Natural History, New York, to visit the whale. Time, travel, and time-travel come into their sights

'Perfect Lover', 2007, 3D animation transferred to 16mm film, 4 mins

'Perfect Lover', 2007, 3D animation transferred to 16mm film, 4 mins

HUO As I remember, our last interview was also recorded in a taxi. A lot of things have happened since then. Before, we talked about the all or nothing experience. Can you explore that further?
 

JW Translated into the new generations here in America?

 

HUO Yes. The question is where you stand in relation to this because it clearly is a new generation and it feels quite atomised.
 

JW It is, but there are collaborations of artists going on. In my own work I am on my own and I live a quite solitary life. I will go out to socialise sometimes in the arts but it doesn’t seem as if at this moment we are working together. I feel like we are all working apart. What do you think of that?
 

HUO I think it’s a situation where we clearly don’t have movements with manifestos and group mechanisms, where there is an ideology or an underpinning of an utopian manifesto movement. However, there are pragmatic alliances of artists working together; it’s a rather pragmatic thing.
 

JW That’s true. There’s no one working with a certain ideology at this moment.
 

HUO No.
 

JW Do you think that something like that could exist now?
 

HUO Yes. I think it existed in the West in the early 20th century. Then, there was the neo-avant-garde of the 60s. It existed in the 80s in China, where you didn’t have the 60s movement because of the Cultural Revolution; so in the 80s there was this whole Chinese Dada as a movement. Metabolism was a movement in the 60s in Japan. It pops up in different places but right now there doesn’t seem to be any movement.
 

JW So no movement is the movement.
 

HUO Maybe.
 

JW The alone movement.
 

HUO Yes.
 

JW So this is the artist as the individual.
 

HUO For people in New York you are as much a Berliner as for people in Berlin you are a New Yorker. You are in between, aren’t you?
 

JW I guess the only movement is the aeroplanes. In a way we are so connected now. I have never flown so much in my life. I think I have probably travelled to Europe more than my parents have.
 

HUO In their whole life?
 

JW In their whole life, yes, and I’ve probably done that in two years. It’s a strange world we’re living in: we’re connected by aeroplanes, we’re connected by the internet. With our Blackberries no-one is so far away; you can speak to anyone at any time, it’s just a matter of money and location. It’s a strange, disconnected world, and then, we’re also having this one problem, this major problem with the environment. That’s on top of it.
 

HUO Yes.
 

JW In a way, you’ve got this environmental problem being the kind of canopy, this realistic canopy, over our unrealistic, atomised lives. It’s as if the body and mind are really divided now.
 

HUO This is the end of Part One, Jordan. We have arrived at the Metropolitan Museum.
 

[In hushed voices, walking through the Met]
 

HUO This is Part Two at the Met. You were telling me about your Whitney piece. Can you say more?
 

JW In 1966 the Frank Painting Company was commissioned to paint the Whitney when it opened in the new Marcel Breuer building. They were a commercial painting company that painted all around New York. Incidentally, this man was my landlord. He is 94 years old and I met him when I moved into the building. So when I discovered he did this I invited him to the Whitney Biennial and we found one of the original walls and we scraped down the paint from this original wall and he repainted just the first layer of paint and we filled it in with spackle and then we repainted the wall. All that was left was the story of the piece and now the work is permanently installed in the Whitney.
 

HUO The collection acquired it.
 

JW They don’t really have a choice, it’s just there, but yes, there is a formal agreement for the work.
 

HUO And it’s hidden.
 

JW Nope, it’s not hidden - you just don’t see it unless you look closely. There is a difference between something hidden and something that goes unnoticed.
 

HUO Where is it hidden? Behind the wall?
 

JW It’s on the second floor when you walk out near an emergency fire alarm. It’s just above and to the right about six inches or so you can see a small square on the wall that looks as if it has been filled with spackle and sanded.
 

'Untitled', 2007, video, 3 mins

'Untitled', 2007, video, 3 mins

HUO What’s your favourite museum?
 

JW I don’t know. This section is one of my favourite places in all of New York. My favourite museum? Contemporary art or museums in general?
 

HUO Museums in general.
 

JW The Museum of Natural History.
 

HUO Where we’re going next...
 

JW That’s where we’re going next, to the Butterfly Room.
 

JW [Still at the Met in the modern art wing] This Morris Lewis is beautiful, isn’t it? All these guys, everyone was trying to do something different on the surface of the painting, so he just made it flat.
 

HUO What about Kenneth Noland?
 

JW He’s great. But I think this image is ahead of its time.
 

HUO That’s really also the question about now. What about art now being ahead of its time? It’s a big question, isn’t it?
 

JW The way art now seems to be ahead of its time is reflecting the old time, artists who are taking practices of Marcel Broodthaers, for example, as we make projects about projects about projects about projects.
 

HUO Or Bas Jan Ader.
 

JW Exactly. We talked about it before. I was interested in it for a while because I thought that making work about the past was making a comment about the current, but then making an entire body of work, or an entire body of practice, just relating to past projects of artists, I think loses its meaning after a while.
 

HUO Can art be ahead of its time?
 

JW Serge Gainsbourg was very much ahead of his time with the song ‘Lemon Incest’ and that was rejected and misunderstood in its own time. I think it’s important to make big mistakes in one’s work in order to move further and go farther. It is a boring occupation to simply please and entertain.
 

HUO Yes, it’s true.
 

JW Would you say that this Damien Hirst shark was ahead of its time or was it just exactly right for its time? I actually think that by the looks of that shark it is part of the past now.
 

HUO [To guard as he and JW walk into the room with Damien Hirst’s shark, ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’, 1991] We are just doing an interview. We are not photographing the works.
 

GUARD OK. Just don’t point it at the shark.
 

HUO OK. The interesting thing is at the same time it’s in a continuum with Bacon.
 

JW Absolutely, but without that reference.
 

HUO Thinking about...
 

JW ...thinking about an obsession, with death.
 

HUO Yes.
 

JW I can’t really give you a profound answer about my life and I don’t think I have a profound system, the way I live it. I just have a deep ritualised pattern in my life that I’ve had since adolescence. It just keeps on changing due to situation and function, you know? And I just continue. But I’m constantly questioning, constantly sceptical of, what I’m doing so I can stay alert. I don’t believe I live in a profound situation; I’m not necessarily having profound conversations, either. I’m just on my own, investigating and trying to go on the inside. I guess I’m somewhat alone like you said before. It’s a kind of painful experience as well. You’re living with the work, inside the work. I even started seeing a therapist who specialises in art, so I’ve got a therapist and a psychic. You remember the psychic, the Tarot card reader? She said something really interesting.
 

HUO You went to see her at the time of our project.
 

JW I did and I spoke to her about you. She said something very interesting but I don’t want you to take it the wrong way.
 

'untitled false document', 2008, 16mm film with sound, 4 mins

'untitled false document', 2008, 16mm film with sound, 4 mins

HUO What did she say?
 

JW She said that – I think again we are going in the wrong direction.
 

HUO We keep getting lost.
 

JW I said to her, ‘Tell me about Hans Ulrich.’ She said, ‘What do you want to know?’ I said, ‘What does he think about my work?’ She said, ‘He doesn’t really have an opinion. Basically, his relationship is based on what’s going on around the work, as if your determination of something is based on your observation of the determination of the public.
 

HUO So she thinks it’s got to do with the public, with the outside world, not with my inside.
 

JW Basically she called you a barometer. I don’t know if you would agree with that or not.
 

HUO A barometer.
 

JW Which gives the air-pressure.
 

HUO No, I don’t think that it would be a definition of curating to be a barometer. I think it’s more to do with facilitating of production of reality, or something like that? Producing reality or the facilitating of reality. A barometer is too passive.
 

JW To be an air-pressure guage is too passive. You are not passive, but you do have an interesting curatorial style where it’s not about the outcome, it’s about the process, wouldn’t you say?
 

HUO It’s both!
 

JW I remember when we were doing the show Uncertain States of America in Oslo and you said the greatest success of the show was that we got all the artists in the hotel together.
 

HUO It was an important part of it.
 

JW And you’re right because what I remember most from that is the experience of being in that hotel with all the artists, the intense energy of that. You brought all these American artists together, who generally don’t have any contact, and we all sat in the hotel lounge in silence at certain points and broke up into groups. It was actually very stressful.
 

HUO Before we leave the Met we should talk about Frank Stella because you said you have always had a special relationship to Stella. Some people think you are his illegitimate son.
 

JW [Laughs]
 

HUO Which you deny.
 

JW Which I do deny.
 

HUO However, we went to the Met to buy the Frank Stella pavilion catalogue which I wanted.
 

JW Open it...

[HUO tears the plastic wrapping from the Stella catalogue. He and JW peer into the book]
 

HUO Yes... they had a pavilion here and it was Stella’s relation to architecture. I have always found it very interesting how Stella inspired generations of architects.
 

JW Yes.
 

HUO And you have advised me for a long time to interview Stella. What about you and Stella, Stella and you?
 

JW I don’t know if there’s a relation between Stella and me. Looking at these images there is a relationship between Stella and Hundertwasser, isn’t there?
 

HUO Yes.
 

JW [Looking at catalogue] This is fantastic. Stella is real, isn’t he? Look at this. He travelled with all the currents; they took him high and low. He was drowning, he was flying, he was right on top aesthetically, he was completely off aesthetically.
 

HUO He’s back.
 

JW He’s back.
 

HUO He’s off again.
 

JW He’s off again. He’s out of touch, he’s in touch. The funny thing is when you get to a certain age, you are still in touch but you are not in touch with the same thing. You are not in touch with the radio generation any more. Do you know what I mean by the radio generation? It’s as if people call you bad when you lose touch with the current generation but Frank Stella never stopped changing. Look at this. There is so much like Dubuffet in here, Hundertwasser. Look at that. Sol LeWitt. Frank Stella might not be completely the zeitgeist artist all the time, but he’s not passive. Look at that image.
 

JW Let’s get a car.

[In taxi]
 

HUO The good thing is that we are unbelievably early. It’s 10.13am. The Natural History Museum is nearby, then MoMA, yes?
 

HUO There are all these birds flying by in front of the Met and that reminds me of a new piece of yours which I saw in Basel, which is a great piece we haven’t spoken about yet.
 

JW The crow.
 

HUO Yes, the crow.
 

JW I just saw a crow fly over. The ‘Perfect Lover’; my talking crow, counting around the clock. What do you want to ask me about it?
 

HUO I want to know more about it: how the idea was born.
 

JW Well, the title was in relation to Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ work, ‘Untitled (Perfect Lovers)’, 1991. It’s a solitary crow counting around the clock going in and out of order, who on occasion coughs and mumbles March 11th, March 13th. The crow was digitally animated and then composited onto 16mm film footage of a forest. I guess it’s a little absurd. It’s a work that I don’t completely understand. For a while I thought it was really important for me to define what I was doing and to break it up and to rationalise it. But I have to say I am often quite confused and this work was a process of unhinging and in a way, coming out in an open territory. I had a lot of different ideas for what the crow might have said and it occurred to me in production that there might not be more for a crow to do than count the hours passing. There are times when you make a work that tries to take the current temperature. Other times you make work that simply has no place other than in its own universe. I hesitate to explain too much about this other than stating it was a work that was more close to me than anything I had made recently. Probably in the end it’s about death – but let’s move to another subject.

'untitled false document', 2008, 16mm film with sound, 4 mins

'untitled false document', 2008, 16mm film with sound, 4 mins

HUO You also mentioned Gonzalez-Torres in relation to the Natural History Museum. What is the link to Gonzalez-Torres? Is he your hero?
 

JW He was a hero for me for a while, but as we said earlier in our previous interview Part One, I don’t totally believe in heroes but I believe in toolboxes. I guess I do believe in him as a toolbox but a toolbox for someone appropriating the image and using image-making in an intentional way, as in appropriating a kind of aesthetic, for example Minimalism.
 

JW I can pay this cab.
 

HUO No, it’s fine. [To taxi driver] Make it six and a receipt, please.
OK. We were with Gonzalez-Torres and the toolbox and the hero.
 

JW When you say a toolbox, it also could be considered an image box, right?
 

HUO Yes.
 

JW In our time now all that we can have are image boxes.
 

HUO Yes.
 

JW And that we can hope to create image from a combination of what is inside this box.
 

HUO A re-combination.
 

JW A re-combination.
 

HUO It’s very much Gonzalez-Torres.
 

JW Exactly.
 
      JW You know I grew up right here; I grew up across the street, right over there.
 

HUO So the whole morning that we are spending between my hotel, the Essex Hotel, the Metropolitan Museum and the Natural History Museum. We are in your childhood.
 

JW I learnt how to walk inside the Diamonds and Minerals room here. Let’s go see the whale too. The whale is the most significant image of my childhood, and I am sure for other children as well.

[Enter Museum of Natural History]

The interesting thing about this museum is it’s completely copyright free, so you can photograph or videotape anything you want.
 

HUO The Butterfly Conservatory. Oh my God!


[They approach the pavilion, an enclosure constructed of glass and steel filled with tropical flora and butterflies]
 

JW Let’s go here.
 

HUO Do we need a ticket, or not?
 

JW I think we do.
 

HUO So you learnt to walk here.
 

JW In the Diamonds and Minerals room. I came here every day when I was growing up.
 

HUO Why? Were your parents into museums?
 

JW I had chronic dreams of this place. I would dream inside the museum.
 

HUO Did your parents bring you here?
 

JW They were working all the time so the babysitter took me. Two tickets for the Butterfly Room.
 

HUO So your parents worked and the babysitter would bring you.
 

JW My mother was a psychoanalyst. She had her therapist’s office just a few blocks up.
 

JW You know the average life of a butterfly, depending on the breed, is around 15-30 days, but some can live up to a year. It’s all based on sugar water here. This is such an interesting museum. Most of the animals in the collection were shot by Theodore Roosevelt himself for this museum.
 

JW This was the construction of the American image. We have the Met, we have the Natural History Museum, all these things coming together. They had to build this country and this was part of it.
 

HUO That looks like a Damien Hirst piece.
 

JW No, a Damien Hirst piece looks like that.

[Enter the Butterfly Conservatory, butterflies everywhere]
 

JW It’s 80 degrees in here. These are all the larvae.
 

HUO Isn’t the idea that artists can occupy something interesting? You can never see a railway line without thinking of Carl André. Art has an incredible power to occupy.
 

JW This is interesting. You take something from the outside world and bring it into art, it becomes new again. It’s a regenerative process.
 

HUO So are you into this idea of occupying territory?
 

JW Of occupying territory?
 

HUO Yes, because it’s clearly occupying territory, this idea that an artist occupies one thing or several things and you can no longer really see those things without...
 

JW ...unless making reference to that artist again in the work.
 

HUO Yes.
 

JW I think maybe it’s inevitable. I don’t think of it so much as occupying territory...


Guard Make sure the first door is closed before you open the second door.
 

JW OK. Would you say that my work occupies territory?
 

HUO It’s a question, you know.
 

JW All my work is looking different as well.
 

HUO Because, in a Picabia way, you change direction.
 

JW Yes, I do change direction but I think there is an underlying theme that connects the work, and this is something I do not try for intentionally. I would be very bored if it was all about just one thing.
 

HUO Can you talk more about that underlying theme? That’s something we haven’t covered in the interviews so far. What’s the umbilical cord?
 

JW I’m interested in the subconscious of culture, the sub currents of culture, of what an image or a symbol means and how it disperses universally and subjectively, how it dissolves. I am also interested, as we said, in the idea of the image toolbox, as if I could go inside this image toolbox and recreate something each time using a standard image, for example, or creating a new image through that recombination of images, and again I want to state that I am using the word ‘image’ as an adjective for all things visual and non-visual. I’m not exactly interested in developing a controlled formal language. I’m more concerned with developing an undercurrent language that then yields the formal language.
 

HUO Yes.
 

JW But that’s just the way I think. Even when I first started making art as a kid, it was always the same.
 

HUO When did you start to make art?
 

JW I always made films, even as a child. I would stay home from school – that’s the thing about being an artist: it’s like staying home from school every day.
 

HUO So when you were about ten?
 

JW When I was eight I was making videos.
 

HUO Do you still have them?
 

JW Yes. They are very strange. There are static shots of rooms where nothing really happens accept for time passing. I remember being specifically fascinated by how a place could be recorded without anyone actually being there. I would set up cameras at night or before I left for school. But it wasn’t really about surveillance as much as it was about witnessing something without being there or witnessing something mechanically. Also, I would build elaborate LEGO communities with LEGO characters inside their homes in different kinds of social situations, for example, an argument over dinner or one character reading while the other was trying to explain something. But you could only see what was going on if you crouched down and peeked through the windows.
 

HUO When did you seriously decide to become an artist?
 

JW When I was 15 or 16 something happened, but I wanted to be a comedian very much as well.
 

HUO What happened when you were 15?
 

JW When I was 15 I made some painting. It was right when my grandmother died. I was never really too close to my grandmother but somehow I started understanding what’s behind an image psychically or symbolically.
 

HUO Who were your heroes at the time?
 

JW [Laughs] I really liked Larry Rivers and I was obsessed with the film A Clockwork Orange for different reasons than I am interested in it now.
 

HUO Larry Rivers?
 

JW Beginning of early Pop.
 

HUO He had a strong penchant for literature.
 

JW He did, yes.
 

HUO Larry Rivers wrote a book. Did you read it?
 

JW I read bits of it. It’s very egotistic; it’s a very arrogant book. It’s called What Did I Do? [1992, co-authored with Arnold Weinstein]. He talks about how he has no respect for any woman he’s attracted to. It’s a bunch of boring bullshit but I read this as a teenager and most likely missed the significant parts.
 

JW Look at this. You see the larvae developing. The main reason for them dying is dehydration. Actually if you look around you’ll see dead butterflies all over here. There’s one.
 

HUO So it’s also about death.
 

JW What – me or the butterflies?
 

HUO Everything.
 

JW You tell me?
 

HUO OK, I’ll think about it. Let’s go. We can’t complain, said Kurt Cobain.
 

JW Is that what he says?
 

HUO We’re on a plane, we’re on a train.
 

JW What’s the plane about? You going to New York? It’s about New York or it’s being on the plane? It’s like the final stop.
 

HUO Let’s make one final stop here at the Natural History Museum before moving on.
 

HUO Do you have brothers and sisters?
 

JW Yes. I have three older sisters. Let’s find the whale. Come on.
 

HUO Yes, can you tell me more about how you see your practice developing?
 

JW It’s hard to say. I don’t want to follow a formula. But I do believe in developing and researching a body of work. And it’s interesting to see how different works begin to fit together over time. But as far as occupying a territory I find this path extremely uninteresting and I don’t believe in this whole practice of ‘build your style’, you know this ‘visual vocabulary’, for example. I am much more interested in shifting and avoiding classification no matter the cost. Being an artist is like being a shark – when you stop moving you die.
 

HUO How does Europe play a role in your world?
 

JW I would say I show 80 per cent in Europe. The artists I am closest with are European. Actually, you know what I’d say? They’re not close friends. Artists who I feel like I can connect with or understand, who are artists I am interested in, contemporary artists.
 

HUO Can you name some of these artists in your generation you like?
 

JW Sure, but it would be a long list, but for example I like the work of Nick Relph and Oliver Payne, also there is Fia Backstrom from New York. It’s a tough question because I like so many pieces from different people – I can’t just flat out give pure faith to any one individual.
 

HUO What about the older generation? Who are your heroes?
 

JW It’s the same answer and I think we need to refrain from the word hero, because it is too black and white. There are some classic works that we can not deny had an effect of my generation and there are probably some works we have not even seen yet that will later become important. It’s difficult to speculate and actually I don’t really want to.
We need to see the whale, not the future Hans. I’m so lost.
 

HUO We are brutally lost. Let’s come back next time.
 

JW No, you should see the whale. If you don’t see the whale you miss something. Let me just find the whale and then we’ll go straight off.
 

HUO OK. Good. I trust you Jordan Wolfson.
 

JW What do you think about my generation?
 

HUO I don’t know. I think the art world is now much more atomised. When I started to be in the art world it was a kind of a community. Now the art world is also an industry. I think that changes relations. Don’t you think so?
 

JW Yes. But I don’t know if I have been exposed to this community the way you define it.
 

HUO Let’s think about it without any nostalgia.
 

JW There is nostalgia and people use it as subject matter now, right?
 

HUO Nostalgia can be too static, paralysing.
 

JW Sometimes people even tell me my work’s nostalgic but I think they misuse the word.
 

HUO I don’t think you’re nostalgic.
 

JW I’m not a nostalgic person.
 

HUO But memory plays a role in your work.
 

JW Time plays a role in my work and memory is part of time.
 

HUO So what’s next?
 

JW I was thinking about making Part Two of the crow on a freighter
ship. Also, I am working on a piece about Apple computers right now and another about image-making in a more direct way – it’s a film that takes place on a boat with a girl holding images of fruit and then later in my apartment in Brooklyn…
 

JW We are totally lost. But I enjoy this confusion because I am always lost here...


‘Excuse me, miss. Can you tell us where the whale is?’


Guard Straight out and take the elevator or the stairs to the first floor.
 

JW So what’s one of your strongest memories from childhood, Hans?
 

HUO It really is the absence of a big city in Switzerland, which led me to learn many languages and then get ready to leave. So it’s a kind of a narrowness, the mountains block the view to the sea.
 

JW Do you have brothers and sisters?
 

HUO No.
 

JW Are your parents still alive?
 

HUO They are alive, yes.
 

JW What were you like as a child?
 

HUO Restless.
 

JW Were you?
 

HUO In a ‘don’t stop’ mode.
 

JW In a ‘don’t stop’ mode?
 

HUO Yes. Really like now.
 

JW What do you want to do in the next ten years?
 

HUO Good question! Sort of synthesize all my different experiences into a kind of a lab for the 21st century, which by necessity will have to be a new institution.
 

JW Will you break out of art? Will you return to architecture?
 

HUO I think that moment has passed where I really wanted to leave the art world. After having been five or seven years in the field, I was on the edge of leaving.
 

JW Why?
 

HUO I understood the field and thought, ‘I cannot spend my whole life in that one field’. Again, it felt narrow. Right? But then I thought the art world is the greatest field. Because from there you can really venture into everything and get everything into art. So from then it has been clear I am in the art world but in order to understood the forces which are effective in art I need to know everything about architecture, about literature, about science. That’s why the interviews and my projects always take all of this into account. So I don’t think I’m going to spread out of art; it’s just going to continue in that vein of venturing into all these other fields and setting them in relation to what is my core field, art. I think that is solved.
 

JW I agree with you that this is a field with a lot of freedom, but like anything it is limited by its system. There is a system here; we can’t deny that.
 

HUO Yes. There is an economy, also.
 

JW There is an economy and a system and all these things function hand in hand; one never really functions without the other and when that does happen you create a dysfunction for that artist.
 

HUO Yes.
 

JW But this is also interesting because the artist has the power then to change the system? The dysfunction becomes the definition.
 

HUO Yes, that is an important point, if not the most important.
 

JW We are near the whale.


[Looking at the labelled cross-section of a giant redwood] Look, Hans. This is incredible. 600 AD – book printing established in China. 700 – Kabuki Theatre developed in Japan. 800 – Charlemagne crowned.
 

HUO So we are back to your obsession for time.
 

JW Yes. This is fantastic.
 

HUO Is time your medium?
 

JW Yes, but isn’t time everyone’s because things exist chronologically, at least in our perception of the universe? Right now we have time. You said in five minutes we should go to MoMA. That’s our medium, that’s what we’re travelling on. Do you know what Edgar Cayce believed? He claimed time was fluid, and past/present/future were all happening simultaneously... and the concept of ‘time’ was just an illusion for us.
 

HUO Is it about liberating time?
 

JW No. I don’t know what that means, liberating time. What do you mean, liberating time? You live your life in time, don’t you?
 

HUO Yes
 

JW Your life is broken up into time, you travel between time zones constantly.
 

HUO Always in between.
 

JW You’ve surrendered yourself to time, haven’t you?
I think that’s my main interest in you as well, your relation to time. One of the interests. Where is the whale? You have to see the whale.
Would you explain your relationship to time?
 

HUO I think the homogenising forces are also at stake in the role of time and I think it’s about resisting that difference and variety in relation to time.
 

JW This is the central image I had as a boy [the whale].
 

HUO So here we are in the core of your childhood.
 

JW I would say this is the bowels of my memory.
 

HUO It’s a whale which is...
 

JW ...suspended from one point on the ceiling. It’s the actual size of a blue whale. It’s quite amazing to look at. Imagine if it fell.
 

HUO End of Part Three. [Jordan Wolfson at the Museum of Natural History, the place of his childhood, reading Theodore Roosevelt engraving on interior wall]. ‘A typical American born and bred in the City of New York. From boyhood a lover of nature and outdoor life, collector of birds and mammals on Long Island and the Hudson Valley. Ranchman and hunter on rugged western plains and mountains. Valiant leader in city, state and nation. Ardent and original observer. Independent and creative thinker. Author of works of adventure, of science, of history. Closing his strenuous life as intrepid explorer and geographer at the head of expeditions to Africa and South America.’
 

HUO Theodore Roosevelt October 27 1858 January 6 1919.

[In taxi]
 

HUO OK. We are back on track here, Jordan. Part Four.
 

JW We were talking about the nomadic artist. I would like you to begin.
 

HUO The question of the nomadic artist is also a question about the studio. Is it a post-studio practice or do you need a studio to work?
 

JW I have a studio, I have an office, I have a computer. My studio is the desktop.
 

HUO So it is not at home.
 

JW Yes, it is at home. I live and work at home.
 

HUO Where is your studio?
 

JW It’s outside of my bedroom.
 

HUO And where is it?
 

JW On the other side of my living room, in my apartment in Brooklyn, in Cobble Hill. I guess it’s post-studio. I do have a room dedicated to my work in my apartment, but to elaborate on the nomadic practice and artist, it could be viewed as not choosing a static medium or a static image to repeat. Rather, working within a kind of – I would even hesitate to call it conceptual – I would say an underlying, internalised thing, maybe, like a kind of psychic undercurrant in the work.
 

HUO And you want to talk about this nomadic side in relation to Philippe Parreno?
 

JW I was thinking of Parreno as an artist who has an undefined project in a way.
 

HUO So is he, for you, an exemplary example?
 

JW Only if I was in crisis to define myself by relevant examples. I think he is an interesting artist. And I like this idea of being a nomadic artist in that it is not about looking to solidify an idea but continuously develop an idea by applying it to new parameters in a kind of continuous game without rules. I guess it is also an atomised tendency. For me, I think the most interesting ‘nomadic artist’ is Mike Kelley.
 

HUO Why Mike Kelley?
 

JW He is one of these artists who is travelling between mediums and also is not afraid of ugly. It’s an internally driven project that sort of threads across the board, somehow.
 

HUO What about Paul McCarthy?
 

JW McCarthy is incredible. He’s the greatest living American artist in my opinion, other than Mike Kelley and Charles Ray, but Charles Ray is not working as much these days. McCarthy completely understands the visual language and strategies within the production of an artwork.
 

JW This is fine. I’ll get it this time.
 

HUO Don’t worry. [To driver] Ten and a receipt.
McCarthy and Kelley.
 

JW Yes, they work very closely. I went to a lecture by McCarthy. Have you heard of the Mountain School of Arts in LA?
 

HUO Yes, the new Black Mountain College.
 

JW Started by Piero Golia and Eric Wesley. McCarthy gave a very small, closed lecture there and explained that he considers his work like a pot of stew that he adds all these elements to. He mixes the pot of stew and all these different symbols and references kind of invert one another, declassify one another.
 

HUO We need just one minute...

Hans Ulrich Obrist is co-director, exhibitions and programmes, and director of international projects at the Serpentine Gallery, London