Jon Rafman: Il viaggiatore mentale, Galleria Civica di Modena

Jon Rafman’s solo show The Mind Traveler in Modena, Italy

It does not seem so difficult to make the figure of Jon Rafman coincide with that of a cursed poet. His videos are like a chasm of a figure, a hell under metamorphosis.

 

Jon Rafman, Galleria Civica di Modena

Jon Rafman, Still Life (Betamale)
2013
Colour HD video with stereo sound
Music by Oneohtrix Point Never
Runtime: 4’54”
Courtesy of the artist

 

Jon Rafman, Galleria Civica di Modena

Jon Rafman, Still Life (Betamale)
2013
Colour HD video with stereo sound
Music by Oneohtrix Point Never
Runtime: 4’54”
Courtesy of the artist

 

We all know the decadentism, the state of mind and rejection that struck a whole series of irreverents addicted to the irrational. The work of Rafman is in the same way an existential implication, the image of a social decadence that rejects a moralization of being. For this reason, the cycle composed by three videos – Still Life (Betamale) (2013), Mainsqueeze (2014) and Erysichthon (2015) – shows a continuous attempt to prostrate itself to non-censorship, the only hero to disperse excess and unexpressed energy. The contemporary decadent hero closes himself in, in front of the screen in search of continuous correspondences with digital alter-egos. The main research remains focused on the tension to escape, always towards the same worlds: artificial, and heavenly.

Dream Journal (2016-2017) is a dysfunctional view of the psyche, a chaos generated by the artist’s collection of dreams and their translation into a dark-web universe. The protagonist is a cyberpunk Joan of Arc and an Alice in Wonderland; chimerical wonders of bodies of different species unify together.

 

Jon Rafman, Galleria Civica di Modena

Jon Rafman, Dream Journal 2016-2017
2017
Colour HD video with stereo sound
Music by James Ferraro and Oneohtrix Point Never
Runtime: 49’17”
Courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers

 

The strongly cinematic dimension of the exhibition Il viaggiatore mentale (The Mind Traveler) at Galleria Civica di Modena frames the gaze on a journey through different rooms: disused, based on three-dimensional space models and art-house films. The circularity of the exhibition echoes in particular in the title of Erysichthon (2015), a reference to the Greek king touched by an insatiable reputation. The Uroboro and the vorarefilia scenes complete it, an atavistic fame that is a compendium to our devouring the digital without end and in every facet.

 

Jon Rafman, Galleria Civica di Modena

Jon Rafman, Poor Magic
2017
Colour HD video with stereo sound
Runtime: 7’8”
Courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers

 

Leaving every possibility open, the decadent metaphor brings us closer to a journey through time that opens and connotes the first hall of the exhibition. It almost seems to be in a revisited scene of the photo roman by Chris Marker La Jetée. Three videos, three structures like time capsules in order to understand Rafman’s work. In particular, Remember Carthage (2013) shows us a commodification of history made of a pastiche of different periods. The quality of the images, more opaque and watercolor-like, shows a monumentality that has become a logo. The false reconstruction of the real in Las Vegas resonates with the representation of the false in the video, where the narrator is the protagonist of a trip to Tunisia.

A deep excavation takes place in Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (2008-2011). The interview with Rafman’s avatar, impersonated by the animated protagonist of the Kool-Aid commercials, perfectly highlights the condition of his research. There is no intention of redemption, the only highlight that is implemented is that which underlines the conditions that trap us. But the trap is self-generated, we created it ourselves and, in the condition of the artist, the result is an examination of our historical present. And the indeterminacy of efficacy leads Rafman to affirm sensibly:

I believe that we, my generation, have reached a point where we do not know if we are celebrating something, showing the truth, or we are engaging in an ironic criticism and we are making fun of something.

 

Jon Rafman, Galleria Civica di Modena

Jon Rafman, Kool-Aid Man in Second Life
2008-2011
Colour HD video with stereo sound
Runtime: 18’01″
Courtesy of the artist

 

Jon Rafman, Galleria Civica di Modena

Jon Rafman
Photo: Dan Wilton

 

And yet the irony of Rafman, in its total dimension of virtuality and in its potentiality, demonstrates concreteness, a profound relapse into what is condensed in our daily life in relation to technological devices. The final question is: are these decadent post-Internet and post-technology conditions – that appear as a reaction to a stiffening and a rationality dictated by the protocols that govern this ideal world – comparable to a decadentism that, in its perturbed soul, did anything but react to a positivist culture?

Jon Rafman, Il viaggiatore mentale. At Galleria Civica di Modena, Modena through February 24, 2019.

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by Lisa Andreani
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