Culling video and images from the far-flung corners of the web, the work of Jon Rafman explores the influence of contemporary media and technology on present experience.
In his practice, Rafman employs the rich vocabulary of the Internet subcultures, virtual worlds, and video games, to create work that reformulates the concepts of present, future, memory, nostalgia, identity, and the psyche. Dream Journal 2016-2019 (2019), Rafman’s best-known work, is a 3D animation with an absurdist storyline developed using automated writing inspired by “cursed” images from the artist’s vast archive.
The artist’s more recent film —Minor Daemon, Vol. 1 (2021)— is set in a surreal dystopia that feels like the deranged fever-dream of Hieronymus Bosch if he grew up on 4chan, and traces the intersecting fortunes of two young men, Billy and Minor Daemon, who share an extraordinary gift for virtual reality gaming and go through a series of nightmarish events. Billy, a spoiled frat boy, is the top dog at an elite prep school. Minor Daemon, abandoned at birth, is a guileless asthmatic raised in a child labour compound. After a nightmarish sequence of events, the two are incarcerated at the same supermax penitentiary. They join forces and catapult their VR prison team to the league championships, where a victory will secure their freedom. After a devastating defeat in the grand finals, the two men then plan an intricate escape. Billy ends up betraying Minor Daemon during a bungled prison break, and flees to a remote pleasure planet. There Billy climbs the ladder of an intergalactic criminal underworld, as Minor Daemon suffers through the horrors of prison life. When he’s finally released years later, Minor Daemon, obsessed with vengeance, tracks Billy down to the violent alien planet. In a place where dreams are paid for in blood, Billy and Daemon face-off in an ultimate showdown that will seal their fate.
Minor Daemon, Vol. 1, 2021
Single-channel HD video
with stereo sound, 65’
Music: James Ferraro
Courtesy: the artist and Sprüth Magers Berlin, London and Los Angeles
JON RAFMAN (b. 1981, Montréal, Canada) His recent solo exhibitions include Dream Journal 2016–2019, Centraal Museum, Utrecht (2020), Disasters Under The Sun, Musee d’art Contemporain, Montréal (2020), The Mental Traveller, Fondazione Modena Arti Visive (2018), Dream Journal 2016–2017, Sprüth Magers Berlin (2017), I Have Ten Thousand Compound Eyes and Each is Named Suffering, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2016). His works have been featured in prominent international group exhibitions, including the 58th Venice Biennale (2019), Sharjah Biennial (2019 and 2017), 9. Berlin Biennale (2016), Manifesta 11 (2016), and Biennale de Lyon (2015). In 2021 he participated in The Dreamers I 58th October Salon I Belgrade Biennale 2021.