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From 21 October 2021 to 09 January

Exhibitions

You, the World and I, by Jon Rafman

Room A

You, the World and I by Jon Rafman is the fourth episode in An Involuntary Trace, curated by This is Jackalope at La Casa Encendida.

The show adopts the form of a two-piece installation that explores the digital trace left by the random and automatic images that are being generated constantly. Rafman’s work examines the relationship between technology and users and its implications for the modern human experience. Cyberspace is shown as a bottomless well, an inexhaustible source of data and images where overabundance and the disposable are just as important as the usable. In You, the World and I, Rafman explores the infinite capacity of the digital world, where nothing disappears and every interaction leaves a trail in its wake. The internet is exposed as a place with room for anything and everything, where we have lost the capacity for autonomy due to the fusion between the real world and the virtual one.

Nine Eyes of Google Street View is an ongoing archive project featuring selected images extracted from the browser. Over the course of the intervening years, Rafman has played the role of a nineteenth-century flâneur, collecting and selecting thousands of photos during his marathon-like virtual strolls. The result is a constant flow of images captured automatically under the aseptic and apparently neutral gaze of the nine eyes of Google’s cameras, but selected by the author to create a meaningful narrative alongside the spectators. Some images are poetic, others unusual, yet others banal, but as the artist says, they appear to be “photos that no one took and memories that no one has”.

The second piece is a video with the same title as the show, You, the World and I. Made in 2010, it explores the difficulty (or impossibility) of remembering someone when you don’t have any pictures of them and the vulnerability of any digital images you may have, given the risk of them disappearing forever. In the video, an anonymous narrator is desperately searching for a lost lover. Using the modern tools of Google Street View and Google Earth, the author trawls through the places where they were both together, looking for memories, for traces of the person and the relationship.

The exhibit also offers a conceptual meditation on the nature of photography today. At a time when images are constantly being created and millions of photographs inundate social media, Rafman focuses his research on images generated automatically, such as those of the Google Street View vehicle-mounted cameras, thus shining a new spotlight on the question of authorship. There is no photographer choosing the time and place to take the picture. And yet, paradoxically, it is these automatic images that convey the greatest spontaneity, building a faithful portrait of modern society and reflecting how we relate to our environment.

The long-lost lover in You, the World and I is remembered for her refusal to let anyone take pictures of her, not only because of the age-old belief of pictures stealing your soul but because she believed in the flow of experience and a world without images, a world remembered by human memory, with its faults and limitations.

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Jon Rafman was born in 1981 in Montreal, Canada. He studied Philosophy and Literature at McGill University in Montreal and received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work explores the impact of technology on contemporary consciousness, incorporating the rich vocabulary of virtual worlds to create poetic narratives that critically engage with the present.

Rafman’s recent solo exhibitions include Dream Journal 2016−2019 (Centraal Museum, Utrecht, 2018), The Mental Traveller (Fondazione Modena Arti Visive, 2018), Dream Journal ’16−’17 (Sprüth Magers, Berlin, 2017), and I have ten thousand compound eyes and each is named suffering (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2016; Westfälischer Kunstverein, Munster, 2016; Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, 2015; and Zabludowicz Collection, London, 2015). His work has been featured in prominent international group exhibitions, including the 58th Venice Biennale (2019), the Sharjah Biennial (2019 and 2017), Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today (ICA Boston, 2018), Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything (Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, 2017), After Us (K11 Art, Shanghai, 2017), Suspended Animation (Les Abattoirs, Toulouse, 2017), Berlin Biennial 9 (2016), Manifesta 11 (2016), The Future of Memory (Kunsthalle Wien, 2015), La Biennale de Lyon (2015), and Speculations on Anonymous Materials (Fridericianum, Kassel, 2013).

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