For his first major solo exhibition in the UK, Jon Rafman has transformed the Zabludowicz Collection into an innovative virtual playground. Each year, the collection invites emerging artists to transform their home, an old Methodist church at London’s Chalk Farm. But beware, this is not your typical art exhibition. (Tip: wear comfortable shoes and pants – this is a fully interactive experience).
Upon entering the first room, visitors are asked to remove their shoes and are handed a map. The tension in the room is tangible, as all the guests are anxious to begin (the the giant pit ball at the entrance of the exhibition cannot go unnoticed). It’s suddenly becomes obvious that you can’t “see” Jon Rafman’s art, you have to experience it.
After relaxing in the ball pit and watching videos, the viewers are led to sit on a comfortable sofa and watch a rapid video collage of found footage. The screen shows a series of videos taken from the internet, video games, or other virtual landscapes. Here Rafman’s criticism of modern technology’s impact on society becomes clear.
After the first two rooms you are further drawn into Rafman’s world, as if you were given a tour of his psyche. Walking through the dark corridors, you end up facing a large-scale artificial hedge-maze surrounded by 3D-printed sculptures and a new 8ft figure in the centre of the maze. Upstairs you can lay on a water bed surrounded by videos and disturbing “vomit art”, then relax on a massage chair while surrounded by more video art. You have to be critical and consider the psychology and research behind the installation to appreciate that it goes much further than a grown-up playground.
Overall, the exhibition is a series of unexpected and engaging spaces that play with consciousness and human senses. The juxtaposition between comfortable environments and uncomfortable subject matter makes for a conflicting experience. Through this contrast, Rafman hopes to allow viewers a space to consider our culture’s dependency on technology and whether it is really worth the convenience and ease.
Jon Rafman lives and works in Montreal. He presented a solo exhibition in his hometown at Musée D’Art Contemporain de Montreal last summer, was nominated for the Victor Pinchuk Future Generation Art Prize in 2014, and is currently nominated for Canada’s prestigious Sobey Art Award. The Zabludowicz Collection previously Commissioned: Matt Stokes (2009), Toby Ziegler (2010), Laurel Nakadate (2011), Matthew Darbyshire (2012), Andy Holden (2013), and Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin (2014).
Jon Rafman is on at Zabludowicz Collection in London until December 20th. Entrance is free, Thursday to Sunday, 12-6pm.