“What concerns me is the general sense of entrapment and isolation felt by many as social and political life becomes increasingly abstracted and experience dematerialized. There is no viable or compelling avenue for effecting change or emancipating consciousness, so the energy that once motivated revolution or critique gets redirected into strange and sometimes disturbing expression.”
Disasters Under the Sun (2019) and Poor Magic (2017), which form a diptych in Rafman’s mind, resonate in uncanny and frightening ways with the current crisis we are living. The first, which was presented at the Venice Biennale in 2019, was recently acquired by the MAC. Both films are darker in tone than his earlier works, delving as they do into the murkier corners of the Web. While his installations, photographs and videos of recent years proposed a melancholic and ironic view of social conventions and virtual communities, these two works offer a more critical perspective. The films portray a post-human dystopia featuring faceless 3-D avatars continuously tortured in abstract digital space. In what is essentially a poetic lament, Rafman addresses the fragmented consciousness of a post-physical existence. The films show a terrifying image of a future where all humanity is uploaded to a virtual purgatory and endlessly abused. Or is it also a brutal representation of the present moment and the effect that a world dominated by algorithms has on our flesh and psyche?
JON RAFMAN (born in 1981) lives and works in Montréal. He studied philosophy and literature at McGill University in Montréal and received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois. Rafman’s recent solo exhibitions have been presented at Centraal Museum, Utrecht, Netherlands (2020), Fondazione Modena Arti Visive, Italy (2018), Sprueth Magers Berlin (2017), Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands (2016), Westfälischer Kunstverein, Munster, Germany (2016), Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2015) and Zabludowicz Collection, London (2015). His works have been featured in prominent international group exhibitions, including the 58th Venice Biennale (2019), Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates (2019 and 2017), Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989-Today, ICA Boston, Massachusetts (2018), Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2017), After Us, K11 Art Shanghai, China (2017), Suspended Animation, Les Abattoirs, Toulouse, France (2017), Berlin Biennial 9 (2016) and Manifesta Biennial for European Art 11, Zurich, Switzerland (2016). Rafman was a finalist for the Sobey Art Award in 2014 and 2016, and was one of the artists selected for the prestigious Future Generation Art Prize in 2014. He was the recipient of the Prix Pierre-Ayot in 2015.