FONDAZIONE MODENA ARTI VISIVE is pleased to present The Mental Traveler, the first extensive solo show by Jon Rafman in an Italian institution dedicated to contemporary art. The exhibition, curated by Diana Baldon and presented by Fondazione Fotografia Modena together with the Galleria Civica di Modena, will be inaugurated on Friday 14 September 2018 at the Palazzina dei Giardini headquarters in conjunction with the philosophy festival , dedicated this year to the theme of Truth.
The exhibition collects a selection of multimedia installations presented in Italy for the first time that retrace the Canadian artist's production from 2011 to today. Using different languages and media, ranging from photography to video, from sculpture to installation, Rafman investigates the increasingly blurred fusion between reality and its simulation in contemporary society through works that confuse the boundaries between the material and the virtual, between the bodies of flesh and blood and their technological replicas.
Born in 1981 in Montreal, where he lives and works, after studying in literature and philosophy at McGill University, Jon Rafman graduated in film, video and new media at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Since the beginning, the artist focuses on the consequences of using technology on our perception of reality. To create Kool- Aid Man (2008-11) he attended the Second Life virtual platform for three years to discover the countless and multiform representations of his digital "inhabitants" with an avatar that gives its name to the work. Rafman refrains from judging or criticizing the inhabitants of Second Life since his intent is to show how technology allows people to create new representations of themselves within fantastic environments, giving them the freedom to shape new identities and iconographies.
The artist has used the Internet and its various digital communities as an archive of images for the videos of his trilogy Betamale Trilogy (made between 2 013 and 2015), composed of the installations Still Life (Betamale) , Mainsqueeze and Erysichthon present in exhibition. As in the novels of Georges Bataille, where in the claustrophobic and ruinous space of writing, history implodes on itself, multiplying narrative plans and its representations, even in the videos of Betamale Trilogy one has the sensation of being trapped in a spiral of alienating and seductive situations. Rafman represents with great skill the ambiguous seductive power of the network that seems to promise freedom and worlds to discover, while in reality it imprisons the user in a space traced by algorithms and agencies that process the navigation data and then resell them.
The immersion in the net, even in the most hidden areas of the "deep web", accomplished by Jon Rafman allowed him to take on the role of amateur anthropologist and digital flecheur investigating the epistemic collapse that has taken place in recent years. cancellation of the distinction between the virtual and the analogical world, between reality and its virtual representation. In his videos, an out-of-the-field and hypnotic voice always accompanies images, coming from selected sequences from the Internet, video games or online chat forums.
Memory is one of the themes at the center of many of his works. In A Man Digging (2013) composed of sequences of videogames, including Max Payne 3, the protagonist speaks of the intrinsic memory changeability , as an experiential device that allows rewriting personal and collective history. While the narrator drifts, looking nostalgically for his fragmented past, Rafman takes us, through the shimmering surface of memory, to the limits of reality. The Remember Carthage video(2013) tells the story of a man who embarks on a ship bound for Tunisia in search of a city in the Sahara desert that existed at the time of Carthage. Although this legendary place was known as the "Las Vegas of the Maghreb", no trace remains of it. In the video, composed of sequences taken from both Second Life and the videogame Uncharted 3 , there is a voiceover that describes meticulously the sublime architectural beauty of ancient civilizations. Remember Carthage goes not only into the theme of memory, but also in the contemporary history of history, thanks to the latest technologies such as video games and Second Life, even the past can take on new forms and exert new influence.
The video Dream Journal 2016-2017, born from Rafman's practice of transforming his dreams into animation videos using amateur 3D software, is accompanied by a soundtrack composed by James Ferraro and Oneohtrix Point Never with whom the artist had already collaborated . The two female protagonists - one representing the archetype of the Millennial, the other is a warrior girl - embark on a Dantean journey that takes on the features of a dystopian universe. The narration is intercalated by imaginary situations characterized by classic epic figures that give life to a series of dark and surreal situations: it is a visualization of the artist's unconscious amplified by surfing the Internet.
At the entrance to the Palazzina dei Giardini, visitors to the exhibition are welcomed by one of the most recent works by Jon Rafman, Legendary Reality(2017) in which the artist takes us on a journey in the "inner space". An anonymous narrator tells an imaginative journey through what appears to be a science-fiction landscape, instead it could simply be what he sees from his computer screen on which detailed historical representations are shown, augmented by virtual experiences.