Jon Rafman, Photographs in virtual worlds
For the l'Œil de Links program, Jon Rafman has filmed the Twin Towers from Second Life, with his avatar reading a poem by Rimbaud in a voice-over. Let us come back to some of the exploits of this net artist and great explorer of parallel worlds.
Pictures from Google Street View installation
The frame is the image
Does the camera make the photographer? The Canadian net-artist Jon Rafman turns the cliches upside down by displaying his screenshots beside the photos taken by the photographers of today. The curious can thus explore his 9 Eyes series at Rencontres d’Arles till 18 September, as part of the From Here On exhibition which focuses particularly on digital images.
Immersed in a world of images, we interact with them daily: by sharing them on social platforms like Flickr or Instagram, by compiling them as a commissioner would on Tumblr or Wordpress, by eradicating their original context, by modifying them with copy/paste, drag/drop or printscreen as Jon Rafman does for example.
Jon Rafman does not claim to be a photographer, but his work is based on the photographic process, which he questions from the viewpoint of digital technologies and the remix culture. “It is the act of framing that gives meaning to things”: by extracting incongruous images from Google Street View, Jon Rafman gives them a new narrative and spatial dimension - whether they are posted on a Tumblr or printed in large format.
Google 9 "eyes" camera, and picture from Jon Rafman
Netourism in PNG
Netartist and netourist, Jon Rafman is as familiar with the narrow streets of Edinburgh as with the wide avenues of Barcelona, the dead ends of Guemene-sur-Scorff and the boulevards of Portland. He has visited them all from his Montreal office and has compiled a travel album filled with comical, disturbing and astounding photographs.
Google Street View images are generated by a 9-lens camera installed on the roof of a car which drives through cities all over the world. During its long journeys, the camera captures scenes without ever taking a second snap; showing unsorted and a posteriori images of roads and the day-to-day traffic.
In the world according to Google, it is always sunny and time stands still till the next update. We see children gazing at orcas, men buying arms, young women talking on the phone as they look out of windows, galloping horses, prostitutes waiting for customers.
With the Street View application, search engine Google becomes the engine of a search. Jon Rafman's serendipitous work is not the result of some laborious task of creation, but an unending quest to find his own picture.
Code of Honor
Machinimas : videos through pictures
While the Google Street project takes up most of his time, the artist continues to toil furiously on other platforms. After having evolved several personalities on Second Life - like his famous avatar Kool Aid Man - he now produces machinimas.
In Codes of Honor, his most recent film, he recounts his IRL peregrinations (In Real Life, as the artist also roams the streets in real life) in New York's arcade halls where he spent a year sharing controllers with the best players in the history of programming.
Happy recipient of a grant awarded by rhizome.org, he has presently launched himself in the shooting of a scene by Tao Lin - epic representative of the lolcat generation with a pronounced taste for writing and MDMA. Instead of the synthetic drug, Rafman prefers the digital trip through virtual worlds which freezes the moment and sets dreams into motion.