Berlin – Jon Rafman: “Dream Journal ’16-’17” at Sprüth Magers Through December 22nd, 2017

October 25th, 2017

Film Still. Image courtesy Sprüth Magers.

Now through December 22, Sprüth Magers Berlin presents Jon Rafman’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Dream Journal ’16-’17 is an hour-long, freeform and loosely connected series of narratives examining the impact of technology on society and consciousness. Jon Rafman’s work examines the impact of technology and virtual reality on contemporary consciousness. He is recognized for his use of interdisciplinary and multi-medial forms, including various virtual platforms and online worlds, to critically explore the present moment. For this work, Rafman has designed an immersive viewing experience, complete with shag carpet and anthropomorphized sculptural seating.

Installation View. Image by Anna Corrigan for Art Observed.

Dream Journal ’16-’17 follows the journeys of two female protagonists as they make their way across dystopian dreamscapes, encountering various recurring characters (often a hybrid composed of human, animal, and artificial parts) and facing a series of surreal challenges. Segments of the film have been fed through the artist’s Instagram feed over the past year. It was created using hobbyist CG animation software, and reflects Rafman’s persistent interest in exploring the purchase of virtual reality and online identity on questions of how identity and reality intersect in the contemporary moment.


Installation View. Image by Anna Corrigan for Art Observed.

As in many of the artist’s previous works, the plane of the tactile, material, and weighty intersects with, at times interrupting and at times enhancing, the limitless space of the virtual. Images of fantastical, grotesque, and impossible physical encounters unfold in the surreal playing field of Rafman’s animated CG universe. Meanwhile, the surrounding environment, or the shag carpet and the sticky, vibrating, and ambiguously anthropomorphic chairs, invite viewers to recline and surrender their imagination to this suspension of space, reason, and time. The viewing experience involves becoming completely immersed in the free-falling space of virtual reality, surrendering any physical or sensory connection to reality to the embrace of a gently vibrating rubber chair beneath you.

Installation View. Image by Anna Corrigan for Art Observed.
Film Still. Image courtesy Sprüth Magers.



Like many of Rafman’s previous projects, Dream Journal ’16-’17 reflects the dystopian nightmares, libidinous encounters, and unfiltered affective reaction that lies at the core of the collective consciousness that is the internet. There is a deep satisfaction in watching this piece that resembles guilty pleasure, or the feeling of finding contemporary art entertaining. Rafman’s work allows this space for entertainment, while remaining resolutely disquieting. From the physical installation of the viewing environment to the spectacle of the film, this exhibition renders the virtual uncanny and threatening, while also comfortingly familiar. Electronic musicians Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro score the film.



-A. Corrigan


Related Links

Exhibition Page [Sprüth Magers]