Jon Rafman: A Man Digging

  • Art
  • Mixed media
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© the artist, courtesy Seventeen Gallery
'Remember Carthage' by Jon Rafman
Free

Montreal-based artist and filmmaker Jon Rafman casts himself as an intrepid explorer, a sort of modern day Dr Livingstone. But he isn’t traipsing through savage, pristine jungle, he’s plunging into the depths of the internet. Here, he attempts to reveal the true nature of our relationship with the digital world through appropriated imagery culled from video games, medieval painting and commissions from online art community deviantart.com.

Figures from renaissance art, printed on billowing sheets of chiffon, are overlaid with blueprints for virtual reality visors and pixelated anime characters, painting an HG Wells-ian picture of armchair time travel. In the dungeon-like basement, two films made of video game imagery play into the darkness, narrated tensely by the artist.

Back upstairs, Rafman has transposed surreal and often beautiful images taken from Google’s Streetview on to old-fashioned microfiche viewers. His

‘9-Eyes’ blog – where you can see more of Streetview’s incredible accidental artistry – is fantastically clever and effective internet art, but it loses its power when obscured by dusty, old-fashioned screens. However, displaying such modern images in an out-dated, archival fashion makes a clear point: libraries and archives are all being shoved into obscurity by the internet.

Fortunately, there is a personal aspect to the work that saves it from heavy-handed conceptualism. The images document Rafman’s struggles with formulating and relating to his own memories. The internet becomes a personal archive, a storage system for the individual, essentially a constantly evolving digital self-portrait. How we are learning to deal with that, and the paranoia and anxiety that ensues, defines the exhibition.

Eddy Frankel

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