Jon Rafman: I have ten thousand compound eyes and each is named suffering
21 May - 14 Aug 2016
Immerse yourself in another reality through the installations of Canadian artist Jon Rafman. Explore the far-flung corners of the web in the world of avatars, online subcultures and fetish communities.
In his video films and installations, Canadian artist Jon Rafman (1981, Montreal) explores the social effects of digital media. The artist is fascinated by how the boundless possibilities of the Internet and virtual platforms affect and redefine our behaviour, social life, and even personal identity. In his work he oscillates between wit, melancholy and alienation. Rafman is regarded as one of the leading artists of the digital age, and has a huge online following.
Like a visual anthropologist, Jon Rafman delves into the subcultures of the online world, analyzing the behaviours of users of multiplayer video games and 3D virtual communities like Second Life in his videos. His work is frequently populated by obsessive characters whose lives revolve around gaming and other digital activities, and who are possessed by a hyper-individualized mindset that exists somewhere between real life and digital reality. Now, in 2016, as the first virtual reality goggles like Oculus Rift and MicrosoftHoloLens are being marketed for commercial use, immersion in a world where reality and virtuality overlap will become a mainstream experience for a broad public. Rafman’s work offers a nuanced exploration of this phenomenon, without moralizing or making judgments. His videos and installations are witty and full of wonderment, yet often tinged with a profound melancholy.
Rafman’s installation comprising a selection of recent work occupies galleries 0.28 and 0.29 (the inner exhibition spaces of the design circuit) and gallery 1.16 on the upper floor. The works are embedded in an environment of atmospheric blue light, creating for the viewer a sensation of stepping into another reality. Visitors can take a seat in one of the furniture sculptures, or even isolate themselves completely from the museum’s public, losing themselves in a world of avatars, online subcultures, and fetish communities in the far-flung corners of the web.
The title of the exhibition, I have ten thousand compound eyes and each is named suffering, originates from Rafman’s film, Erysichthon (2015).
The exhibition is curated by Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen.
About the artist
Jon Rafman was born in Montreal in 1981. He obtained an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, after studying philosophy and literature at McGill University (Montreal). He lives and works in Montreal. Rafman’s work has been previously shown in the Netherlands at a one-day exhibition organized by the Sid Lee Collective in Amsterdam (2011), at a screening at the IMPAKT Festival in Utrecht (2014), and in the group exhibition, The Fluidity Aspect, during the Today’s Art Festival in The Hague (2014).
The work of Jon Rafman will also be featured in the Berlin Biennale and at Manifesta 11 in Zurich this summer.
Rafman’s book Nine Lives will be released in summer 2016. Containing a vast array of images culled through Google Street View, the artist presents situations – odd, grim, at times alarming – randomly caught on camera http://9-eyes.com
A monograph published by the Zabludowicz Collection, London, will accompany the exhibition, with texts by Kevin McGarry, Maitreyi Maheshwari, and Ana Teixeira Pinto, plus a conversation between the artist and writer Tom McCarthy.
This essay (PDF English) from Sandra Rafman about Jon Rafmans work was published in the catalogue for the exhibition Jon Rafman - The attraction of virtual communities at the Musée d’art contemporain in Montréal.
The Stedelijk Museum continuously presents dynamic solo exhibitions by a young generation of artists. Many of these are new productions and recent purchases that tie in with the museum’s acquisitions policy. The Stedelijk seeks to respond to current events and stimulate contemporary talent by, in some cases, also taking on the position of commissioner. Its commitment to developing lasting relationships with young artists shapes the future identity of the museum’s collection.
This exhibition was realized in partnership with the Zabludowicz Collection in London (UK) and the Westfaelischer Kunstverein in Munster (DE).
The presentations in 2016 and 2017 are made possible by Ammodo.