The flash of a neon light, entangled with unknown background sounds, fading in and out of somewhat recognisable songs for the standard passer by. The overlapping resonances of children exchanging vocals, images overlaid with digital manipulation and general sensations of chaos, mixed with a 21st century touch of plastic aesthetic, waste and artificial textures.
This could well be a glimpse of the human experience of public transport or over crowded sites in almost any given metropolis, unimportant as to which, as the notion of cultural distinction has become close to non existent in our contemporary life state. The latter does indeed resemble, at least for myself, an ordinary experience of a congested London, instead, it aims to define the initial feeling one is presented with whilst walking into Jon Rafman’s latest London show at the Zabludowicz Collection.
Still, the transcultural references so heavily hinted at through his work are wholly relevant,if not essential for the understanding of his intentions, and perhaps even, the intentions of his entire companion of makers. If postmodern is a cannon no longer relevant for our generation, then post digital cannot be salvaged from our consciousness. Rafman’s show depicts a mixture of the familiar; children more comfortable with coding than they are with playground props, ball filled tubs that remind the majority of us of our far away and somewhat blurry childhoods, and a teenage girl’s bedroom covered in what can only be referred to as the green goo of the current digital existence: shiny, artificial and, everywhere.
If such a movement were indeed defined and sanctified, then the post digital artist would be one working towards a unified cross referential and re-appropriated body of substance. Where any individual, from a myriad of backgrounds could encounter a piece produced under these notions, and be immediately overwhelmed with a sense of disturbing familiarity mixed together with complete lack of comfort, much like the fast changing imagery of social media and digital interactions that have become so inherent to our lives.
It is artists like Rafman, along with Ed Atkins, Ryan Trecartin and Kate Cooper to name just a few, who are leading the contemporary spectator into an aesthetic representation that is not only built in metaphors and allegories, but rather, is a depiction of existence that has travelled in multiple directions; culturally as well as temporally, in order to place us right back to where we are, in this very moment. French historian and author Pierre Nora in his infamous collection Les lieux de memoire, wrote that historians and individuals alike must embody the necessity to understand cultural histories as having, “No referents in reality; or, rather, they are their own referents pure signs.”
Rafman is offering a new approach to the archiving culture so prominent today, a depiction that is self referential and that, within these references, the spectator is presented with the catalogue of self historicism. A place where all our banal memories are welded together with odours of nameless crowds inhibiting the homogenous metropolises that have become so dominant for the 21st century spectator. A place where specific epistemological events rooted in our past have lost their definitions; only to be produced into a hybrid of popular mimes and pop imageries.
The world of Jon Rafman, the post digital artist, has obliterated all comforting ideas of historical and cultural norms, taking the ‘oh so’ comforting term of The End as intrinsic to every allegory and folkloric tale. Instead, Rafman has transformed this phrase into, And Then This Happened.