Jon Rafman’s Oniric Imagery generated by the Web
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Rafman creates characters that seem to come out from an imaginary dark web: alienating synthesis between 3D animation and scenes clinging to reality; all this gives life to a composite picture able to open gates towards an alternative, but disturbing dimension.

Colorful but sinister environments, ambiguous subjects, disturbing lights.

Jon Rafman – born in 1981 – is considered the “messiah” of Digital Art.

He has created the subculture of the “liquid” society, representing on screen half-man half-animal freaks, generated unnaturally by digital globalization.

He became known to the general public also thanks to the Balenciaga S/S19 fashion show, for which he created an immersive psychedelic tunnel, claustrophobic, made of lights and surreal atmospheres – in which models moved like automatons and a voice in the background obsessively repeated:

“Presence is the key. Now is the answer.”

It was an overwhelming show that literally overwhelmed the audience, catapulting them from one dimension to another.

Rafman creates characters that seem to come out from an imaginary dark web: alienating synthesis between 3D animation and scenes clinging to reality as we know it; all this gives life to a composite picture able to open gates towards an alternative, but disturbing dimension.

 

Using different media and languages ranging from digital art, photography, installation and sculpture, Rafman deeply investigates the disturbing fusion of simulation and reality in contemporary society, through the creation of works that confuse the material and virtual worlds – creating bewilderment and reflection in the viewer.

His immersive research up to the most malodorous bowels of the deep web has allowed him to play the role of an amateur and digital atropologist, able to collect, in an almost obsessive way, significant testimonies abandoned on the web.

All his video art production always has a voice-over that hypnotically repeats the same phrase, and accompanies the sequences of frames selected from the internet, videogames, online chats, old forums in an incredible melting pot apparently confused, but which follows its own precise logic.

Works like “In A Man Digging” (2013) or “Remember Carthage” (2013) mix fragments of 90s videogames with real settings, following a surreal but compelling narrative.

They delve into the themes of memory – at first that of floppy disks – until they reach the emotional, human one.

Rafman’s works are exhibited in the most avant-garde galleries in the world, such as Sprüth Magers in Berlin and Los Angeles, the New Online Art – New Museum in New York, the Saatchi Gallery in London, or the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki – just to name a few.

The latest exhibition, shown at Ordet in Milan and titled ‘ᖴᗩᑕIᗩᒪ I’ (2022) is a collection of “UV maps”: facial skins derived from scans of real faces used for the creation of avatars of the metaverse, modified by the artist with various levels of interventions.

The exhibition aimed to highlight the drift of avatars that are preemptively replacing real people. As Rafman stated:

“Subjectivity has degraded to such an extent that we can no longer even say we are subjects.”

Rafman plunges the viewer into a participatory experience, with alternating waves of visceral pleasure and feeling of rejection – almost disgust – he composes like a novel the structure of the work, to be followed to the end.

Rafman’s art is a mental trip, which paradoxically allows to wake up from the numbness of the hyper-digitalized society.

 

WORDS: Manuela Palma

All Rights at jonrafman.com

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