As internet-based art proliferates, it’s fascinating to watch work that is rooted in the digital as it migrate into the world of physical art spaces. The success of these transitions is varied, but Jon Rafman‘s practice is endlessly fascinating. His exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis opening tomorrow feels likely to bridge that gap.
As curator Jeffrey Uslip writes, Rafman’s work “takes up an unfamiliar and uncanny third space between the two realms [of digital and physical,” a space that many of us now inhabit.
The show will feature the video Still Life (Betamale), which Rafman created for the Oneohtrix Point Never song “Still Life,” as well as photos and sculptures from his New Age Demanded series. For those pieces, Rafman 3D printed busts mutated by their digital origins, shown alongside 2D photos of same pieces, “[blurring] the traditional distinctions between an image and its physical analog,” Uslip writes.
Rafman’s recent video works excavate subcultural practices trafficked on the Deep or Invisible Web—the majority of the content on the Internet, which is not accessible through standard search engines—and celebrate the utopian possibility for online self-reinvention. Still Life (Betamale) elaborates on the artist’s earlier film works; here, assembled images of virtual landscapes address issues of social and sexual exoticism. Drawing from the aesthetics of imageboards (ie, Tumblr or Reddit), Rafman guides viewers through a series of vignettes culled from the Invisible Web, navigating what the video calls the “endlessly winding paths” of Furry fandoms, 8-bit video game GIFsets, Internet “troll caves,” and manga pornography.