85_AC05_Sorenson_Rafman_You are standing in an open field (Squall)
Jon Rafman You Are Standing in an Open Field (Squall), 2015.
Photo : courtesy of the artist

Jon Rafman

Oli Sorenson
A self-proclaimed law-abiding sociopath, Jon Rafman fleshes out some of his most recent cyber-pop visions for a first major exhibition in his hometown, coordinated by in-house MACM curator Mark Lanctôt1 1 - June 20 – September 13, 2015.. At times sleazy, eerie and at others magnificent, his most salient explorations of virtual worlds are framed inside sit-in cabinets of curiosities, which intertwine video, photo and sculptural elements with the obsession of an anthropologist of online culture.

A multitude of purpose-built, individual screening boxes occupy the show, built out of urethane foam and other construction supplies. The tiny enclosures constrain the viewer’s body, adding to the presentation context of Rafman’s video edits and animations. In this manner Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (2008 – 2011) invites us into a tempered glass cube, to follow the sickly-sweet juice icon through his equally synthetic onscreen world. The latter shows a compendium of extraordinary scenes of cities and wilderness, promoting an exacerbated artificiality that only reminds us of the constructed essence of this and other networks. Rafman implied this constructedness in a 2010 interview with Nicolas O’Brien, when calling the multi-user domain Second Life “the ultimate tourist destination — an endless expanse of floating symbols, free of the weight of history.”2 2 -  From “A Conversation with Jon Rafman,” Vimeo video, 13:03, posted by Badatsports, 2010, accessed July 7, 2015 https://vimeo.com/11685295. Accordingly, some of Rafman’s screening pods offer a bodily experience more analogous to the content on view, such as Oh The Humanity (waterbed) (2015) — a pimped up waterbed for viewers to wobble upon while lying under the looping animation of an overcrowded wave pool. In other instances, the angular furniture of Betamale/Mainsqueeze (Pit Couch) (2015) and square-columned agora of Remember Carthage/A Man Digging (2015) mimic the low-polygon count and electric colours of early 3D engines, all of the above suggesting that virtual worlds have already colonized our social existence.

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This article also appears in the issue 85 – Taking a Stance - Taking a Stance

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