Jon Rafman | Counterfeit Poast | Sprüth Magers

“These technologies allow me to construct rich new virtual worlds. I combine the language of video games and pop culture with classical references to create my own ‘Boschian’ 21st-century hellscape and purgatory.” –- Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman’s recent works tap the creative potential of machine learning, continuing his longstanding practice of both applying the latest digital technologies and analyzing their impact on everyday life. Like much of Rafman’s recent output, the pieces created for this show explore themes of nostalgia, youth, and false memories, as well as isolation and the alienation of individuals from society.
An immersive experience awaits visitors in the gallery’s upstairs exhibition area. Stepping behind a video installation, viewers enter an octagonal, chapel-like space with custom-made vinyl wallpaper covering the floor and walls, upon which new, large-scale paintings have been hung. 

The creative, innovative potential of these algorithmically-generated works stems from the artist’s own complex powers of imagination. Rafman’s process begins with text and words; content that is subjected to a calculated, algorithmic process before it ultimately materializes as physical reality.

Consumer technology guides both thresholds of this transformation: CLIP-Guided Diffusion, an image-generating software that converts the artist’s text input into an image, is followed by a printing process that turns the digital image into a material object. The artifice of this technology-mediated lens turns apparently trustworthy, recognizable motifs on their head, exposing them in ever more grotesque detail. The artist plunders the collective archives of our digital memory, altering ordinary, familiar images to create a nightmarish machine delirium. The video installation Counterfeit Poast is comprised of images created using the same algorithm as those used for the paintings. The images depict creatures (or rather mutations) from data garbage that reveal our complex, twenty-first century relationship to images and memories. The character studies on view are inspired by “copypasta” (i.e., funny or provocative blocks of text that are repeatedly copied and pasted in online forums such as Reddit or 4chan) and animated using iPhone facial recognition apps. The video also draws on established cinema films, including Chris Marker’s La Jetée and Peter Greenaway’s The Falls, though it transposes their formal and narrative possibilities to the emerging Web 3 era. Throughout, he draws on the Mandela Effect, a phenomenon in which a large segment of the population misremembers a significant event or shares a memory of an event that never happened. Rafman’s practice explores the ever-present experience of living in a world in which nothing lasts forever, but nothing is forgotten either. 

“Rafman’s artworks reveal that we often lack the resources to distinguish between forms of artifice and forms of reality. If we cannot see what is false, how can we avoid bowing down to false gods?” – Sandra Rafman





September 17 - November 12

January 28, 2023