It does not get more meta than this.
LINK: Akihiko Taniguchi
Exhibition: Jon Rafman. The Mental Traveller
Curated by: Diana Baldon
Curatorial Assistance: Chiara Dall’Olio
Institutions: Fondazione Fotografia Modena and Galleria Civica di Modena
Location: Palazzina dei Giardini, Corso Cavour, 2, Modena
Exhibition Dates: 14 September 2018 to 24 February 2019
Opening: 14 September 2018 at 6pm
Press View 12 September 2018 at 11am
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday: 11am to 1pm; 4pm to 7pm
Saturday, Sunday and Holidays: 11am to 7pm
Opening Hours for festivalfilosofia 2018:
Friday 14 September: 9am to 11pm
Saturday 15 September: 9am to 12am
Sunday 16 September: 9am to 9pm
Jon Rafman, Dream Journal 2016-2017, 2017, Colour HD video with stereo sound. Music by James Ferraro and Oneohtrix Point Never, Runtime: 49’17”, Courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers
FONDAZIONE MODENA ARTI VISIVE is delighted to present The Mental Traveller, the first large-scale exhibition of works by Jon Rafman to be shown in an Italian contemporary art institution. Curated by Diana Baldon and presented by Fondazione Fotografia Modena and the Galleria Civica di Modena, the exhibition will open at the Palazzina dei Giardini on Friday 14 September 2018, to coincide with this year’s festivalfilosofia, the theme of which is truth.
The exhibition brings together a selection of multimedia installations, presented for the first time in Italy, tracing the arc of the Canadian artist’s practice from 2011 to the present. Employing a variety of media – including photography, video, sculpture and installation – Rafman explores how reality and simulation have become increasingly homogenized in contemporary society in artworks that blur the boundaries between the virtual and the tangible, between physical bodies and technological replicas.
Born in 1981 in Montreal, where he lives and works, Rafman studied literature and philosophy at McGill University before graduating in film, video and new media from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since his earliest career, Rafman has investigated the ramifications of our reliance on technology on our perceptions of reality.To create Kool-Aid Man (2008–11), Rafman spent three years exploringthe virtual-reality platform Second Life, in the guise of the titular avatar, to discover the myriad incarnationsof its digital ‘inhabitants’. Rafman neither judges nor criticises his Second Life cohabitants: rather, his intention is to document how technology enables people to create entirely new versions of themselves in fantastical environments, giving them the freedom to invent new identities and iconographies.
Rafman also drew from the Internet and its multiple online communities as archival resources for the three videos comprising his Betamale Trilogy (2013–15) – Still Life (Betamale), Mainsqueezeand Erysichthon – which are among the installations included in this exhibition. As in the novels of Georges Bataille, where the narrative arc implodes in the claustrophobic and catastrophic arena of the writing, this leads to a proliferation of narrative strands and interpretations. Watching the Betamale Trilogy, the viewer feels trapped in a vortex of scenarios that are traumatic yet seductive. Rafman skilfully conveys the ambiguous lure of the Internet, which seemingly promises freedom and the discovery of new worlds, yet, in reality, imprisons you in a space tracked by algorithms and monitored by agencies that process, then sell, your navigational data.
Rafman’s extensive research on both the Internet and the deep web has enabled him to assume the mantle of amateur anthropologist and digital flâneur. He investigates the epistemic collapse in recent years of the distinction between digital and authentic worlds, between reality and its virtual representation. In his videos, a poetic and hypnotic off-screen voice invariably accompanies a sequence of images taken from the Internet, videogames or online chat forums.
Memory figures as a major theme in many works. In A Man Digging (2013), which comprises footage from videogames including Max Payne 3, the main character speaks of the intrinsic mutability of memory and how it allows for the rewriting of individual and collective history. While the narrator nostalgically drifts along in search of his fragmented past, Rafman transports us, via the glinting surfaces of memory, to the furthest reaches of reality. The video Remember Carthage (2013)tells the story of a man who sets sail on a ship bound for Tunisia in search of a mythical city in the Sahara Desert that existed at the same time as Carthage. Despite its legendary status as the ‘Las Vegas of Maghreb’, however, no trace of the city remains. Composed of footage from Second Life and the videogame Uncharted 3, the film again features an off-camera voice detailing the sublime architectural beauty of ancient civilisations. Remember Carthage explores not only memory but the contemporaneity of history, since – thanks to technological developments such as videogames and Second Life– even history can now find a different form and influence.
The video Dream Journal (2016–17) comes from Rafman’s habit of animating his dreams using amateur 3D software, and has a soundtrack composed by James Ferraro and Oneohtrix Point Never, with whom the artist has previously collaborated. Two young female protagonists – a stereotypical millennial and a child warrior – set off on a Dantean journey within a dystopian universe. The narrative interweaves imaginary scenes with characters from classical epic tales to yield a series of darkly surreal incidents: this is Rafman’s unconscious mind, augmented by online surfing, rendered visual.
Greeting visitors at the entrance of the Palazzina is the artist’s latest work, Legendary Reality (2017). In this he leads us on a voyage into ‘inner space’. An anonymous protagonist narrates a journey through what appears to be a sci-fi landscape – although he could just as easily be sitting at a computer screen on which historical depictions have become conflated with virtual experiences.
Jon Rafman (Montreal, 1981) is an artist who explores digital culture and subcultures, exposing the desires, obsessions and fetishes triggered by the use of technological devices. Recent solo shows in international contemporary art institutions include:I have ten thousand compound eyes and each is named suffering, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2016); Jon Rafman, Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster (2016); Jon Rafman, Zabludowicz Collection, London (2015); The end of the end of the end,Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2014); Remember Carthage, First Look: New Art Online, New Museum, New York (2013); The Nine Eyes of Google Streetview, Saatchi Gallery, London (2012); Jon Rafman, online exhibition, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012). He has also participated in numerous group shows, including: I was raised on the Internet, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2018); Alone together, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2018); ARS 17: Hello world!, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki (2017–18); Jon Rafman / Stan Vanderbeek, Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles (2017); Manifesta 11, Zurich (2016);Welcome to the Jungle, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2015);Speculations on Anonymous Materials, Fridericianum, Kassel (2013); NineEyes, Moscow Photobienniale (2012); Screenshots, William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut (2012); From Here On, Les Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles, Arles (2011).
Together with Museo della Figurina, Fondazione Fotografia Modenaand Galleria Civica di Modena are part of FONDAZIONE MODENA ARTI VISIVE, an institution dedicated to the presentation and promotion of contemporary art and visual culture, directed by Diana Baldon.
Jon Rafman, Remember Carthage, 2013, Colour HD video with stereo sound, Runtime: 13’43” Courtesy of the artist
Jon Rafman, Remember Carthage, 2013, Colour HD video with stereo sound, Runtime: 13’43” Courtesy of the artist
Office-Shadow (Persona) is Philip Birch's latest project, six animated movies set on a single floor of a computer generated office building. Think of The Stanley Parable, only weireder. Each video acts as a single chapter of a longer narrative which is told through a first person perspective. By remediating the aesthetics of videogames, Birch is upgrading contemporary art as a whole. The videos also juxtapose Greek mythology and role playing games. Ludic themes pervade Birch's oeuvre, like Entering God Mode, Oubliette and The Hand of God. After the Flesh, an homage to David Cronenberg's masterpiece eXistenz, even features a gamepod.
Philip Birch, After the Flesh, installation.
Philip Birch (b. 1978, Detroit) is represented by Lyles & King and his recent solo exhibitions and performances include Milespires and Reliquaries, Lyles & King, NY; Entering God Mode, Jack Hanley, NY; The Crown of Modernity, 47 Canal, NY; The Hand of God, Essex Flowers, NY; The Chair After Its Method of Implementation, Cleopatra’s, NY.
Emissary Forks At Perfection
May 24 - November 25
Espace Louis Vuitton
Venezia Calle del Ridotto 1353
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 8.00 pm and on Sunday from 10.30 am to 8.00 pm. Open on public holidays. Free entrance
For its third exhibition produced in the framework the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s “Hors-les-murs” program, the Espace Louis Vuitton Venezia is pleased to present American artist Ian Cheng’s Emissary Forks At Perfection. The Fondation Louis Vuitton’s “Hors-les-murs” program showcases previously unseen holdings of the Collection at the Espaces Louis Vuitton in Tokyo, Munich, Venice and Beijing, thus carrying out the Fondation’s intent to realize international projects and make them accessible to a broader public.
The video installation Emissary Forks At Perfection (2015-2016) is the second chapter of the Emissaries trilogy created by Cheng between 2015 and 2017. These three episodes, located in the same space but addressing different eras, trace the evolution of ensembles of beings and the way they adapt to their environment. Each features an “emissary”, a “narrative agent”, whose actions will modify the course of events. With Emissary Forks At Perfection, Cheng leads us to question the human mind’s adaptive capacities and human evolution in the face of otherness, randomness and the unpredictability of an ever-changing world.
LINK: Ian Cheng
LINK: Espace Louis Vitton
Z-rush - Operation S.M.E.T. is a short machinima film by NY-based artist Arvid Logan. An homage to the videogames of his childhood, Arvid's video presents a loose narrative based on two playthroughs of the fictional games Z-rush - Operation: S.M.E.T. (Smet Corp) and Mosquito 3.7 (CION/CTON Productions). It was originally created for the group exhibition RE-MAP at DOMICILE Tokyo in Tokyo, Japan. Arvid Logan starred alongside fellow machinima artist Jacky Connolly in the unreleased feature film Game House, directed by Asher Penn, "which tells the story of a celebrated video game programmer who relocates to a cabin in the woods only to be terrorized by unwanted objects and characters both in her game and her surrounding landscape".
Arvid Logan is the co-founder of Dizzy, a print magazine focusing on the arts: painting, writing, film, music, style, and beyond, all with an intergenerational span. Logan is also a painter who also makes airbrushed shirts and hosts the radio show Know Wave and he is a member of the music-and-art collective Letter Racer.
TANK is an animated short film made by Stu Maschwitz inspired by classic vector games of the 1980s, like Atari's Battlezone. The video, which required more than 18 months from conception to production, is now available on Red Giant's site. Maschwitz also produced a terrific making-of-video, which can be watched below. TANK was developed entirely with Adobe After Effects.
Stu Maschwitz is a filmmaker, photographer, and writer, with a passion for kinetic storytelling. A graduate of CalArts, Maschwitz spent four years creating visual effects at Industrial Light & Magic before co-founding the legendary effects firm The Orphanage in 1999. Despite his visual effects background and unique command of filmmaking technologies, Maschwitz places an emphasis on performance, emotion, and story.
LINK: Stu Maschwitz
In Beyond The Mind, Dupuy Benjamin's latest machinima, a policeman discovers a strange place and makes an unexpected encounter that will bring him to overcome his greatest fears.
Dupuy Benjamin received a Master of Science in Computer Science at the Faculty of Toulouse, France and today mainly works as a web developer. "Cinema has been my passion since childhood. I love all genres, but I consider myself a die hard fan of fantasy, science fiction, and above all horror movies. I have always liked video games and when I discovered the GTA IV editor in 2008, I realized I could do some really interesting things, merging my passion for cinema with the possibility of games.". He started making machinima and collaborating with the members of a now defunct small online community, Machinigamers. Movies like Mathieu Weschler's The Trashmaster (2010) and Ezequiel Guerisoli's Mastermind (2010) convinced him of the potential of machinima as an art form. "I realized that it was possible to use games as platforms to bring to life stories more powerful, more interesting and evocative than a simple pursuit in the streets of Liberty City." The introduction of Grand Theft Auto V in 2013 was another milestone. "The game featured a powerful editor, but the real revolution was that the fans began making incredible mods, and after a few years of inactivity, I decided to return to machinima-making."
According to Benjamin, "machinima is fascinating because it allows any creator to make all sorts of narratives with a limited budget and with excellent visual quality if the craft is there. A filmmaker must understands the potential but also the limitations of the medium (e.g. the movement of characters, their facial expressions, the kinds of available places and scenery...), but playing with these constraints can be very interesting and constructive. Machinima makes it possible to express oneself in a way that is inaccessible to most of us outside this medium. The problem today is the vast majority of movies that are produced tend to mimic the original game's genre - for instance, the gangster movie for GTA V. With Beyond the Mind, I wanted to tell something else, to make another kind of machinima. I am convinced that the possibilities are there: one only needs to experiment." Asked about his personal vision as a filmmaker, Dupuy Benjamin says that "As a filmmaker, I have no specific goals for the moment but telling these stories I have in mind, have fun making movies, not only machinima. There is so much I want to discover and the room for improvement is huge."
Jakob Kudsk Steensen's AQUAPHOBIA is a stunning achievement, both on technical and conceptual levels. Created with Unreal Engine, AQUAPHOBIA is an immersive experience which allows the viewer to navigate through five different environments or "levels" seamlessly connected. These spaces form an ecosystem and include simple to water microbial surroundings and futuristic replicas of Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier in Red Hook, Brooklyn, developed in a scale accurately one to one. The "goal" of this non-game is to to overcome fear of water, hence the title, AQUAPHOBIA. The work features a voice-over narration by Rindon Johnson.
As the artist writes,
AQUAPHOBIA uses VR to connect inner psychological landscapes with exterior eco-systems. The work is inspired by psychological studies of the treatment of aquaphobia – fear of water- as an entry point to transform perceptions of our relationship to future water levels and climates. [...] While travelling through the landscape, an alien morphing aquatic entity follows you around and emit scuba diving sounds and recites a poem, which tell a breakup story between the landscape and its virtual visitor. Ultimately, AQUAPHOBIA uses VR to mixes past and future geological periods, and the work personifies a landscape through a break-up story.
You may remember Steensen's equally powerful work Primal Tourism, which we featured last year.
Below is a VR documentary created by Steensen:
Jakob Kudsk Steensen is a Danish artist and art director based in New York, specialized in VR and real-time virtual simulations of ecosystems. Through his practice, Steensen is concerned with how imagination, technology and ecology intertwine by developing futuristic virtual simulations of existing real-world landscapes. His work is at the forefront of real-time rendered virtual environments, and he develops projects through collaborations with science, technology and natural science divisions. Steensen also develop work through collaborations with artists from digital media industries, with the aim of bringing diversity in content, and opportunities to experimental developers. As a result, Steensen occupies a space in-between art, science and 3D studio production models.
LINK: Jakob Kudsk Steensen (all images and videos courtesy of the Artist)
Kerich's DKS is one of my favorite projects of the year. It's a cross between Arman and Ant Farm, in a digital space. Phenomenal:
"This project, inspired by the YouTube series Car Boys, involved the creation and destruction of kinetic sculptures in the driving game BeamNG.drive(with a few modifications). BeamNG is built to be a vehicle simulator and racing game, allowing its users to customize cars and race and crash them with realistic soft body physics. It also includes an editor, to allow players to create their own levels and scenarios to race in. To create this project, I abused the capabilities of the editor to create car-sculptures that often burst into flame immediately or caused the physics engine to severely glitch as soon as the simulation was started. By exploring conditions of the game that generally be considered unlikely for an average user (cars dropped from a great height with 100x gravity, cars existing inside of one another) a space of strange freedom is opened up inside of what is otherwise a relatively focused driving simulator. These zones of alternative creative production are extremely important in helping to explore and understand systems." (Chris Kerich)
Chris Keric, etk_i-series/cliff, 2017
Chris Keric, dh_sport_bike/derby, 2017
Chris Kerich is a programmer, artist, and "human being interested in systems, breaking systems, constrained art, information, critical science studies, games, media and studies". Kerich received his Master of Science at MIT in Comparative Media Studies and he is currently based in Los Angeles, California where he is pursuing a PhD at UCSC.
LINK: Chris Kerich (All images and videos courtesy of the Artist)
Tash Tully is a third year Illustration student at the University of Brighton, UK. She's also a talented machinimaker. Her short video Absence created with/within Grand Theft Auto V, is incredibly touching. A meditation of loneliness and anomie inspired by a quote from Theodore Roosevelt ("Absence and death are the same, only that in death there is no suffering") Absence is as far removed from the nihilistic tone of Grand Theft Auto V as one can imagine:
Here's the Neon edition:
And the original version:
Using Grand Theft Auto V as my engine, I explored the city of San Andreas alone. Settings were allocated so there were no humans, no cars and the weather was miserable in attempt to convey the feelings of isolation and danger that come with being a lone person exploring a big city.
LINK: Tash Tully