Jon Rafman by Dan Wilton

Jon Rafman. Photo: Dan Wilton

 

Jon Rafman (*1981) is acclaimed for a multifaceted oeuvre that encompasses video, animation, photography, sculpture and installation. His quasi-anthropological works—often incorporating internet-sourced images and narrative material—investigate digital technologies and the communities they create, focusing on the losses, longings and fantasies that shape our technology-infused lives today. The Montreal-based artist turns an empathic but critical eye on the internet age, investigating experiences of alienation, nostalgia, loneliness and grief.

 

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Rafman’s complex take on internet technologies is implicit even in his earliest work. The Nine Eyes of Google Street View (2007–present), an ever-growing collection of photographic images and frequently updated website, finds him rummaging the panoramic street view feature of Google Maps for unusual images. Like a cyber flâneur he stumbles upon surprising moments of humanity, vulnerability and sometimes beauty; his discoveries include pictures of children playing in run-down neighborhoods, horses and reindeer roaming the streets, poetic landscapes, grumbling prostitutes and police arrests. By showing these automatically captured images in a new light, Rafman reveals the visual grammar and blind spots of Google’s technology.

Many of Rafman’s later videos explore lesser-known facets of the digital world. A case in point is Codes of Honor (2011), a docu-fiction short that combines real film footage with images from the online platform Second Life to tell the story of a video gamer’s life. Another is the film essay trilogy consisting of Still Life (Betamale) (2013), Mainsqueeze (2014) and ERYSICHTON (2015), a visual study of niche internet cultures including cosplayers, hentai pornography enthusiasts or people who pursue obscure sexual fetishes.

Not all of the artist’s works use found images. While the bust-like objects of his series New Age Demanded (2012–present) evoke classical modernist sculptures, they were actually created using digital imaging techniques and technologies including 3D printing or 3D model-based carving. A series of large-scale photographs titled You Are Standing in an Open Field (2015) juxtaposes grimy computer keyboards and trash-heaped desks with pastoral landscape painting backgrounds. Sticky Drama (2015), a short about the loss of digitally stored memories, is Rafman’s first live-action film.

Many of the artist’s most recent works use 3D animation. Examples include his Dream Journal 2016–2019, for which Rafman documents his daily dreams before mixing them with found narratives from mythology, video games and TV series. The animated video essays Legendary Reality (2017), SHADOWBANNED (2018) and Disasters under the Sun (2019) offer a serious look at the current human condition with a visual language reminiscent of science fiction films.

Rafman’s films and videos are often set to hypnotic, experimental-electro music soundtracks by artists including Oneohtrix Point Never or James Ferraro. Although available online, they are most effectively experienced in specially-designed sculptural installations. These emphatically physical installations squeeze viewers into booths, transport them to the bedroom of a typical North American teenager, invite them to lie on polyurethane foam seating or in pools of plastic balls.

All of Jon Rafman’s works explore the vicissitudes of self-formation in the digital age. They ask what it means to live in a time when technologies structure our every waking hour, or when the price of easy fulfillment of our needs is loneliness in front of a computer screen.  They explore the ever-present experience of living in a world where nothing is permanent, but nothing is forgotten.

 

Jon Rafman: Dream Journal ´16-´17
Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 16, 2017–January 20, 2018
© Berlin Art Link Productions

Works
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Single–channel video
Music by Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro
94 min

More views
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Single-channel video, carpet, sculptural chairs
Music by Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro
94 min

More views
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
You Are Standing in an Open Field (Pandemonium), 2020

Jon Rafman
You Are Standing in an Open Field (Pandemonium), 2020
Dye sublimation aluminum print and resin on dibond aluminum and wood
149.9 × 201.9 cm
59 × 79.5 inches

Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
You Are Standing in an Open Field (Mental Traveler), 2020

Jon Rafman
You Are Standing in an Open Field (Mental Traveler), 2020
Dye sublimation aluminum print and resin on dibond aluminum and wood
149.9 × 201.9 cm
59 × 79.5 inches

Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
New Age Demanded (Angel Racer Carrara), 2014

Jon Rafman
New Age Demanded (Angel Racer Carrara), 2014
White Carrara marble
91.5 × 152.4 × 67 cm
36 × 60 × 26 3/8 inches

More views
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
View of Harbor, 2018

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor, 2018
Virtual Reality 3D Simulation
Color, sound
8:00 min

More views
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
Open Heart Warrior, 2016

Jon Rafman
Open Heart Warrior, 2016
Three-channel HD video
13:30 min

More views
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
144 Fort York Boulevard, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2012

Jon Rafman
144 Fort York Boulevard, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2012
Archival pigment print on dibond aluminium
101.6 × 162.5 cm
40 × 64 inches

Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
3081 Valmont Road, Boulder, Colorado, 2012

Jon Rafman
3081 Valmont Road, Boulder, Colorado, 2012
Archival pigment print on dibond aluminium
101.6 × 162.5 cm
40 × 64 inches

Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017
Single-channel video
7:08 min

More views
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020
Single-channel video
30:00 min

More views
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013
Single-channel video
4:54 min

More views
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
Erysichthon, 2015

Jon Rafman
Erysichthon, 2015
Single-channel video
8:04 min

More views
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
Transdimensional Serpent, 2016

Jon Rafman
Transdimensional Serpent, 2016
Virtual Reality installation
4:38 min

More views
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman
New Age Demanded (Globular), 2017

Jon Rafman
New Age Demanded (Globular), 2017
3D Photopolymer resin print, silicone, pigment
46.74 × 66.8 × 40.13 cm
18 3/8 × 26 1/4 × 15 7/8 inches

Details
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Single–channel video
Music by Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro
94 min

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Single-channel video, carpet, sculptural chairs
Music by Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro
94 min

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016–2019, 2019
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016 – 2019, 2019
May You Live in Interesting Times – 58th International Art Exhibition
Installation view, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, May 11–November 24, 2019

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal 2016 - 2019, 2019
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
You Are Standing in an Open Field (Pandemonium), 2020
Dye sublimation aluminum print and resin on dibond aluminum and wood
149.9 × 201.9 cm
59 × 79.5 inches

Jon Rafman
You Are Standing in an Open Field (Pandemonium), 2020
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
You Are Standing in an Open Field (Mental Traveler), 2020
Dye sublimation aluminum print and resin on dibond aluminum and wood
149.9 × 201.9 cm
59 × 79.5 inches

Jon Rafman
You Are Standing in an Open Field (Mental Traveler), 2020
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
New Age Demanded (Angel Racer Carrara), 2014
White Carrara marble
91.5 × 152.4 × 67 cm
36 × 60 × 26 3/8 inches

Jon Rafman
New Age Demanded (Angel Racer Carrara), 2014
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
New Age Demanded (Angel Racer Carrara), 2014
Installation View, Jardin des Tuileries, Paris

Jon Rafman
New Age Demanded (Angel Racer Carrara), Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, 2014
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor, 2018
Virtual Reality 3D Simulation
Color, sound
8:00 min

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor, 2018
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor (film still)

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor (film still)

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor (film still)

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor (film still)

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor (film still)

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor (film still)

Jon Rafman
View of Harbor
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Open Heart Warrior, 2016
Three-channel HD video
13:30 min

Jon Rafman
Open Heart Warrior, 2016
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Open Heart Warrior, 2016 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Open Heart Warrior, 2016
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Open Heart Warrior, 2016 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Open Heart Warrior, 2016
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Open Heart Warrior, 2016
Installation View

Jon Rafman
Open Heart Warrior, 2016
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
144 Fort York Boulevard, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2012
Archival pigment print on dibond aluminium
101.6 × 162.5 cm
40 × 64 inches

Jon Rafman
144 Fort York Boulevard, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2012
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
3081 Valmont Road, Boulder, Colorado, 2012
Archival pigment print on dibond aluminium
101.6 × 162.5 cm
40 × 64 inches

Jon Rafman
3081 Valmont Road, Boulder, Colorado, 2012
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017
Single-channel video
7:08 min

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Poor Magic, 2017
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020
Single-channel video
30:00 min

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Supercut), 2020
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013
Single-channel video
4:54 min

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Still Life (Betamale), 2013
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Erysichthon, 2015
Single-channel video
8:04 min

Jon Rafman
Erysichthon, 2015
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Erysichthon, 2015 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Erysichthon, 2015
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Erysichthon, 2015 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Erysichthon, 2015
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Erysichthon, 2015 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Erysichthon, 2015
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Transdimensional Serpent, 2016
Virtual Reality installation
4:38 min

Jon Rafman
Transdimensional Serpent, 2016
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Transdimensional Serpent, 2016 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Transdimensional Serpent, 2016
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Transdimensional Serpent, 2016 (film still)

Jon Rafman
Transdimensional Serpent, 2016
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
New Age Demanded (Globular), 2017
3D Photopolymer resin print, silicone, pigment
46.74 × 66.8 × 40.13 cm
18 3/8 × 26 1/4 × 15 7/8 inches

Jon Rafman
New Age Demanded (Globular), 2017
Details
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Current and Upcoming

Me, Family
Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg-Kirchberg
May 30–September 6, 2020

A key highlight within the 2020 programme for Mudam Luxembourg, Me, Family is an extensive, international group survey of contemporary art. Devised by the renowned curator Francesco Bonami, it offers a portrait of humanity at the beginning of the 21st century. Inspired by the landmark exhibition The Family of Man (1955), conceived by Edward Steichen, Me, Family bears witness to the great questions of our age.

Link
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman, Nine Eyes of Google Street View (Slideshow), 2008-2020, Color 4K Video

Jon Rafman
Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Montréal
July 4–September 6, 2020

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.

Link
Jon Rafman
Jon Rafman, Disaster Under the Sun, 2019 (film still)
Exhibitions at Sprüth Magers
Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman
Nine Eyes of Google Street View
June 25–July 25, 2020

Jon Rafman’s Nine Eyes of Google Street View series (2008–present), an ever-expanding collection of screenshots from the Street View feature of Google Maps, signify in ways that are multiple, ambiguous, and puzzling. Like Baudelaire’s flâneur, Rafman captures moments that are both unique and universal.  
He writes: “this very way of recording our world, this paradoxical relationship between an automated camera filming and a human who seeks connectedness and meaning”.

Jon Rafman
Dream Journal '16 -'17
September 16, 2017–January 20, 2018
Berlin

In Dream Journal 2016-2017, the latest iteration in his ongoing video series, Jon Rafman has created an immersive installation within the Berlin space. Rafman is recognized for an interdisciplinary practice that spans photography, sculpture, video, virtual reality, and installation. His work explores the impact of technology on contemporary consciousness, incorporating the rich vocabulary of online worlds to create poetic narratives that critically engage with the present.

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Jon Rafman
Press

Street-View-Fotografie Straßenansichten
Monopol, article by Donna Schons, March 31, 2020

People are repeating History without the Knowledge of their doing so: Jon Rafman
Spike, interview by Aaron Moulton, Winter 2020

Deep Dive: Art and Virtual Reality
Artforum International, article by Jon Rafman, November 2017

Dante im Darknet: Jon Rafman
Frankfurter Allgemeine Quarterly, article by Kolja Reichert, Winter 2017

The refracting Eye: Jon Rafman
Cura Magazine, article by Bret Schneider, Fall 2016

Infinite Lives: Jon Rafman
Frieze, article by Gary Zhexi Zhang, January – February 2016

Internet Explorer: Jon Rafman
Canadian Art, article by Murry Whyte, Fall 2015

Biography

Jon Rafman (*1981, Montreal) lives and works in Montreal. Rafman’s recent solo exhibitions were held at Centraal Museum, Utrecht (2020), Fondazione Modena Arti Visive (2018), Sprüth Magers, Berlin (2017), Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2016), Westfälischer Kunstverein, Muenster (2016), Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal (2015) and The Zabludowicz Collection, London (2015). His works have been featured in prominent international group exhibitions, including the 58th Venice Biennale (2019), Sharjah Biennial (2019 and 2017), the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2018), Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal (2017), K11 Art Shanghai (2017), Les Abattoirs, Toulouse (2017), Berlin Biennial 9 (2016), Manifesta Biennial for European Art 11 (2016), Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2015), Biennale de Lyon (2015) and Fridericianum, Kassel (2013).

Education
2006–2008 MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
2000–2004 BA, Philosophy and Literature, McGill University, Montréal
Teaching
2018– Haut école d´art et de design (HEAD), Genève, Fine Arts - Work.Master
Awards, Grants and Fellowships
2018 Sobey Award (Shortlist)
2016 Long-Term Grant to Visual Artists, Canada Council for the Arts
2016 Pierre Ayot Award, Ville De Montréal
2016 Sobey Award (Longlist)
2015 Sobey Award (Shortlist)
2014 Future Generation Prize, Pinchuk Foundation, Kiev (Shortlist)
2012 Media Arts Project Grant, Canada Council for the Arts
Public Collections
Banque Nationale, Montreal
Burger Collection, Hong Kong
Centraal Museum, Utrecht
Dallas Art Museum, Dallas
Fosun Foundation Collection, Shanghai
Julia Stoschek Collection, Dusseldorf
Kadist Foundation, Paris and San Francisco
Moderna Museet, Stockholm
Musée des beaux‐arts de Montréal
Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal
Museo d’arte Contemporanea Roma, Rome
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
RBC Collection, Toronto
Rubell Family Collection, Miami
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Ville de Montréal
Zabludowicz Collection, London