Artistry Vs. Novelty: Wolf Lieser on Virtual Reality as Art

In the Whitney Museum’s first biennial of its new Chelsea home, the most controversial work is one of new media: Jordan Wolfson’s Real Violence (2017) is experienced through virtual reality headsets. Via Oculus Rift, the viewer is forced out of the museum and onto a New York street, where the artist waits with a baseball bat. Before viewers have time to accustom themselves, Wolfson swings, repeatedly wailing the bat and stomping his foot into the face of an animatronic doll—rendered lifelike through post-processing—which spouts too-human blood. Back in the museum, metal handrails help deter viewers from looking away. All of this is overlaid, through headphones, with the recitation of a Hebrew prayer.