Jon Rafman

“Rafman’s work poetically addresses a virtual world filled with obsessions, sexual extremes and violent fantasies, but also the loneliness and melancholy that have become increasingly prevalent in our real, everyday lives and in the minds of the coming generation” – Sergey Harutoonian, Curator at Kunstverein Hannover, 2020.

In his practice, Jon Rafman (b.1981, Montréal) explores the relationship between technology and identity in the contemporary age. Mining video games, obscure subcultures and fetish communities of the ‘Deep Web’, Rafman collects images and texts and translates them into sensory experiences. With a multidisciplinary practice that spans video, photography, installation, sculpture and virtual reality, Rafman crafts satirical narratives that posit questions on consciousness, desire and memory in the Post-Internet era. A digital flâneur, Rafman investigates the collapse of the distinction between digital and authentic worlds over the last decades.

One of the central devices in his work to use the very tools that alienate us from ourselves and our environment in the service of art and the human experience of beauty. He is interested in capturing the tension between the disinterested eye of the machine and the human impulse towards creating meaning. In this new series of paintings, showing for the first time at ORDET, it is an algorithm, specifically, an artificially intelligent clip-guided diffusion algorithm, which is turned towards aesthetic experience.

These AI-generated paintings are of a world in which everything is mediated through algorithms, but they break through with a uniquely melancholic, dazed, and nostalgic affect. Rafman sources images from the Internet, rescuing them from digital obscurity. The machine, a tool for revitalization, ingests these images with cold neutrality and attempts to recreate them with the same affectless sterility. However, the imperfections of the reproduction, the unlikeness of the generated images to those it ingests, tend to stir in the viewer new possibilities for circulation and aesthetic enjoyment.

This process of producing dissimilarity and remixing is furthered even more dramatically once the algorithmically generated pictures are materialized onto canvas. The process is intentionally imperfect and depends on a degree of randomness. Rafman attempts to force the images as far as possible from the comfort of their perfect digital origins into the rough and tactile material world.

Jon Rafman lives and works in Montreal, Canada. Rafman’s work has been the subject of numerous solo presentation in major institutions, including recent exhibitions at: Centraal Museum, Utrech (2020); Kunstverein Hannover, Germany (2020); Fri Art Kunsthalle, Fribourg (2020); Fondazione Modena Arti Visive, Italy (2019); Carl Kostyál Gallery, Stockholm (2016); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2016); Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster, Germany (2016); Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal (2015); and The Zabludowicz Collection, London (2015).  His works have been featured in prominent international group exhibitions, including: ‘May You Live In Interesting Times’, 58th Venice Biennial (2019); ‘Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989–Today’, ICA Boston, (2018); ‘Burger Collection Exhibition’, Langen Foundation, Dusseldorf; ‘I Was Raised on The Internet’, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2018); Manifesta, Zurich (2017); the 9th Berlin Biennale (2017);  Manifesta Biennial for European Art 11 (2016); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2015).

Public collections include: the Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal; Musée des beaux‐arts de Montréal; Dallas Art Museum; DeVos Art Museum, Northern Michigan University, Marquette J.; Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles; MACRO|Museo d’arte Contemporanea Roma, Rome; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Zabludowicz Collection, London; Saatchi Collection, London; Burger Collection, Hong Kong.

Carl Kostyál and Ordet have presented Jon Rafman’s exhibition ‘₳Ɽ฿ł₮ɆⱤ Ø₣ ₩ØⱤⱠĐ₴’ at ORDET in February 2022, Milan.

Exhibitions & Art Fairs