Known for taking his audience to the darker corners of the internet, Jon Rafman unites with Christian Jankowski‘s interactive performances for Field Vision, running at Berlin’s Future Gallery from May 1 to June 13. The result is a series of travel experiences, where the focus is on the less dominant senses in an attempt to construct the surroundings of full-time web browsers based on photos from feed aggregator sites.
Shot entirely in black and white ‘The Eye of Dubai’ (2012) is the documentation of Jankowski’s first trip to the United Arab Emirates. Denying himself the privilege of sight, Jankowski and his film crew experience the entire journey blindfolded. Along with entertaining shots of the crew’s misfortune, the travelogue is stunningly visual. The architectural extremes of the region are shown, along with long nature shots that include one of Jankowski handling a falcon in the desert. A crew from BBC World News followed the process of producing the project, with one episode from the collaboration accompanying the film screened in the gallery’s hallway.
A pile of blindfolds lies on the floor of the main space. Above them hang large-scale photos sharing the title ‘The Eye of Dubai’ with Jankowski’s video and capturing amusing moments alongside the stunning surroundings. Rafman’s ‘YASIAOF (Chinese Medicine)’ (2015) and ‘YASIAOF (Woodsman)’ (2015) archival pigment prints are in the gallery’s main and left room. Printed on alu dibond and painted with dripping resin both images present a keyboard in the foreground covered in a distracting amount of trash. It’s a remake of similar images found on the web, accompanied by an oil paintings of a sunset over an Arcadian landscape.
A small boxlike enclosure called ‘Cubby’ (2015) after the children’s playset is one of two of Rafman’s DIY inspirited installations. Consisting of a mattress and a wooden box covered in pastel green-coloured PU chip foam, it acts as a home cinema allowing the viewer to lie back while watching a video custom-made for these surroundings. The film takes up almost the entire space of the inner room.
The accompanying ‘Cabinet’ (2015) installation is another box-like structure made of the similarly crude materials as of ‘Cubby’, accessible through a door in the back. One person at a time can sit in a wooden seat with high sides and watch a video projected on one side.
‘Erysichthon’ (2015) screens in the small space an consists of photos from various feed aggregator sites, along with shots that seem taken from some kind of data storage. Often a hand holding a smartphone appears and is used as the video’s second screen, demonstrating the way many people browse the web in the belief that they are multi-tasking. That idea fits well with the video’s title, named after a cursed character in Greek mythology, who no matter how much he ate was never satisfied, eventually eating himself in hunger. **
Canadian artist and filmmaker Jon Rafman is returning to the homeland with a solo show at Montréal’s Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran, titled HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL II and running from October 15 to November 22.
The internet explorer (and archiver) continues his examination of the shifting nature of self in the context of modern technology and virtual living, using video works, installations, sculptures, prints, and traditional painting techniques to probe the subjectivity of memory and the collapse between the virtual and ‘the real’.
As part of the exhibition, Rafman will show his latest series, titled Manifolds and coming out of the Greek-like sculptural busts distorted and altered according to the specifications of the modern world in his earlier series, New Age Demanded.
A mammoth survey of some of the world’s most influential emerging and established artists and collectives, Private Settings, Art after the Internet, is happening at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (MOMAW), opening September 25 and running to January 6, 2015.
Curated by the Polish institute’s Natalia Sielewicz, the show press release reads like a search engine optimised article around the dominant art discourse of the last decade. Littered with tag words like “affect”, “authenticity” and “anonymity”; “prosumer”, “late capitalism” and “stock photographs”, the lineup is an equally expansive overview of some of the most relevant contemporary art of the day.
It’s another bold attempt at categorising the uncategorisable swell of artists rising from the milieu of online awareness, the same way that the Art Post-Internet exhibition in Beijing earlier this year did with its title’s integrated umbrella-term for ‘kind of a product of the internet but not entirely’ and more nebulous objective, spanning a broader generational cross-section.
Interestingly, the Private Settings sub-heading is identical to that of the Omar Kholeif-edited book You Are Here: Art After the Internet published in April. It’s unclear whether the reference is intended but there is some overlap with contributing artists also featured in the MOMAW exhibition, including Jon Rafman and Jesse Darling, perhaps revealing a consciousness for a shared experience, however incomprehensible that experience might be.
Examining information dissemination and the archive on and offline, Tabularium exists as a physical exhibition and a website. Curated by Alana Kushnir and taking its name from the 78 BCE Roman building storing tablet legal documents, it builds on the ongoing project collating and preserving publications not available in a digital format yet drawing from, or reflecting on the internet. The original Roman Tabularium was closed to the public but the works on show at Melbourne’s Slopes gallery examine the modern archive as a public resource, actively created, modified and consumed on a daily basis.
Slopes is a space that exists in a transitional state – sitting in the back of a building currently being renovated into apartments, it will close once these renovations are complete. Right now though, it’s a white cube punctuated by a ceiling open to a rickety-looking wooden catwalk and its designated ‘slope’ (a remnant of its previous use as an underground carpark) jutting into the gallery. It’s a perfect place to present Tabularium, where the remnants of a utilitarian past and pre-ordained non-gallery future mean that the space itself is positioned within the fluctuating lifecycle of the archive.
The destruction of tactile documents, from the legendary burning of the Library of Alexandria to the recent loss of museum artefacts in Syria to civil war, are examples of how physical objects of knowledge and information can be lost, but the intangible online one is just as prone. Both Ry David Bradley’s ‘Flowers for Ukraine’ (2014) and Jon Rafman’s ‘Annals of Time Lost’ (2013) examine said extinction. Bradley inserts an abstracted flower into the Ukraine Wikipedia page, printing a copy to record the incursion. Presented along with a large-scale reproduction of the plant, its documentation continues to offer an IRL version of the page that exists long after editors have figuratively ‘deflowered’ the online one. Rafman’s video work, meanwhile, draws from the London’s National Gallery collection to produce juxtapositions of anime characters and old master paintings, building a new archive informed by the personal narratives of its creator.
The archive as physical property is examined within Lawrence Lek’s ‘Memory Palace’ (2014) video, taking its audience on a virtual tour of an imagined Tabularium space in which server racks and monitor screens take the place of inscribed tablets. Katja Novitskova’s knife-like ‘Shapeshifter X’ and ‘Shapeshifter V’ (2013), are made from circuit board wafers and presented within acrylic cases. The circuit boards do not disclose their originally intended use and any information encoded within them is lost. Instead, the museum aesthetic of their presentation prompts the audience to consider them as historical objects used in the distant past.
Other works, also including Tom Penney, Heman Chong and Anthony Marcellini, continue this exploration of documentation and archive construction. Eloïse Bonneviot’s ‘My Forensic Steps 2’ (2014) print on silk presents written instructions on the process of crime-scene documentation within the gallery, then subverts the objective output of those rules through a first-person game hosted on the Slopes gallery website. This subversion continues within Rachel De Joode’s print, ‘Hanging Marble’ (2014), rough marble reduced to two dimensions and exuding an oppositional strength and suppleness, a perfect representation of the way knowledge flows and changes within the archive.
Surrounded by these works in the gallery sits Tabularium Archive, a library of books on a server rack that capture the internet in some way, yet exist only within a physical reality. They’re digital ‘ghosts’ of texts from Kushnir’s personal collection, which fade in and out of view from within the space, reflecting on their status as information not available through online archives. Both the books and the works within Tabularium examine the spaces between the original Tabularium’s static information collection and storage, and the data flows of our current realities. Kushnir and the artists involved have built a modern Tabularium – an evolving space which sets nothing in stone. **
This is the first American solo museum exhibition for the Canadian artist, who will present a single channel video called Still Life (Betamale) – which excavates subcultural practices of the Deep or Invisible Web that contains most of the Internet’s content – alongside a selection of recent sculpture and photography from his New Age Demandedseries.
In her ‘Note on Capitalisation’, Stephanie Bailey points to the heart of an issue grappled with throughout You Are Here: Art After the Internet. Concluding the book of essays, provocations and projects, edited by Omar Kholeif and published by Cornerhouse and SPACE, if involves a discussion of how the editorial team arrived at the decision not to capitalise the word ‘internet’. The question they faced, she points out, was of what kind of space the internet is –sure, in the 90s, as Jennifer Chan observes in the ‘Note’, the dot-com boom had it feeling like a corporate entity divided into commodities: hence the capital ‘I’ (and emphasis on the capital). Since then, our perception of what the internet is –as inwhere, how and why it exists –has lead to an uncapitalised form being widely preferred. You go on the internet as you would go to the park.
Taking a stroll through this collection of texts that dare to ask the daunting question of how art has changed and is changing, and will change –in the digital age we now inhabit, you come across many renderings of how that public space might look. In the meditation ‘May Amnesia Never Kiss Us On The Mouth’ by Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme it’s an unknowable yet tangible “afterlife of our experiences”, producing spontaneous counter-narratives alongside real word ones, constantly archiving to the second. It’s a space entirely dependent on, and entirely separate from, physical life.
Proponent of Gulf Futurism Sophia Al-Maria sees it more earthily, talking of “terraforming the WWW”, bringing life from a whole new landscape as if giving birth to a second Earth. In her short provocation, she ties up “life” with emotions and relationships. Similarly, in his essay exploring the nature of relationships formed online, Gene McHugh looks at how digital natives perceive no difference between the meaningful context of relationships formed online and IRL. If real emotions can be played out on online platforms, what’s to separate such platforms from ‘life’?
Meanwhile, editor Kholeif brings the book’s central question about art’s new environment home as he explores the potential and actuality of the online realm as a curatorial space. He relays the experience of moving through algorithm-driven “recommendations” in spaces like Amazon and Artsy, and asks whether art that exists on this plane will soon be downloadable to iPads, in a sense crossing a physical boundary.
In his provocation ‘Where to for Public Space?’, Constant Dullaart takes this internet-as-physical-space metaphor for a walk, delineating the unseen and largely uncontemplated differences between ‘public’ and ‘private’ spaces in cities, and drawing attention to the web’s status as a network of privately owned areas masquerading as a wide open public landscape. Touching on the still-murky realms of the deep web and encrypted codes as hidden spaces where art may yet be contained, Dullaart raises uneasy questions about the freedom of movement and information we associate with our digital world. One thing’s certain: “private” ownership means nothing good for your privacy.
When considering this uncertain, tangible-yet-not, interconnected space that determines the shape of life and the creation and distribution (and content) of art, the notion of ‘post-internet’ as a genre becomes practically impossible to grapple with. You Are Here begins to tackle it by observing current trends in art as you might stare at an endlessly rotating 3D gif; there’s not much in the way of answers or definition, but plenty of absorbing examples viewed from a prism of different angles. Take the cross-section of Jon Rafman’s ‘Virtual Worlds’ presented here, excellently chosen shots of his recent ‘I am Alone but Not Lonely’ installation at New York’s Zach Feuer Gallery and stills from his ‘Still Life (Betamale)’ video for Oneohtrix Point Never in particular. What both of these projects bring to visual realisation is the point or the boundary at which digital reality sits alongside the physical, providing something very real and engrossing that acts as a counterpoint to the decay and depression that surrounds it.
With visual interjections like these, the form of the book reflects the volatility and dynamism of the subject matter elegantly, always implicitly asking the question of what our post-internet world means to publications and consumption of information, as much as art. Jesse Darling’s ‘Post-Whatever #usermilitia’ kicks off with a Facebook status and a hashtag before even drawing a breath for its first sentence: this strikes up an instant familiarity with a reader whose reading experience is augmented by half-hourly Twitter-scrolling. The voice is that of a digital orator, strong from the offset and wittily contained. Embracing change as inevitable and technology as human, Darling asserts: “It seems unlikely that the contemporary condition should be qualitatively different from other technological and teleological shifts in human history. Current anxiety that the internet may be making us stupid (or lonely, or sexually aberrant, or socially dysfunctional) echo Plato’s worry that the widespread practice of writing would destroy oral literacy and the ability to create new memories.” This is a mindset that feels like a crux of the whole book, tying in neatly with Rafman’s depictions of un-lonely aloneness and McHugh’s assertion that real emotional bonds can be (and are) forged over the internet.
To quote Bailey again, she states in her provocation ‘OurSpace: Take The Net In Your Hands’: “as the internet continues to evolve, it might be worth admitting that its so-called ‘age’ is not yet ‘post-’ because it has only just begun. Its future therefore remains, to some extent at least, in our hands.” And so we find ourselves here, wherever here might be, inside the ‘after’ signified by ‘post-internet’. If you need a hand navigating, You Are Here maps the movement as diligently as you could expect to map a movement still in motion. **
Apparently removed from YouTube as quickly as it went up this alternate video for Brooklyn producer Oneohtrix Point Never ‘Still Life (betamale)’ dropped yesterday and features a chilling indictment of the culture of enslavement to the LCD screen we’re all too conscious of. Artist Jon Rafman is responsible for this one and confirms a collective fear just by the huge reaction to it.
As said in an essay ‘Harry Burke w/ Metahaven: Metahaven, visibility and the joke’ in Arcadia Missa’s How 2 Sleep Faster #4: “jokes, when politically effective, perform what everybody knew but couldn’t say”. We won’t tell you what’s in the video itself but will warn you, it’s like looking into the eyes of Medusa (the nihilist’s intrepretation, obv).
Oneohtrix Point Never’s R Plus Seven is out on Warp, September 30. **
Coinciding with Create London’s Open East Festival, the White Building in Hackney will be opening the doors to its studios for public viewing over the weekend, July 27 to 28. For two days, artists Sam Ashby, Jesse Darling, Fabienne Hess and Jon Rafman will be showing their works in progress, ranging from film, sculpture, publishing and photography, along with special guided tours, performance and a workshop. Entry is free and you can see the White Building website for more details. **