Christian Jankowski, Jon Rafman
May 1 – June 13, 2015
Future Gallery is proud to present Field Vision, a duo exhibition by Christian Jankowski and Jon Rafman. Through a series of video and image based works both artists engage the relationship between vision and comprehension, image and experience. While Rafman contrasts the image overload of digital contexts with the physical experience of navigating the web, Jankowski uses the metaphor of blindness – and literally blinds himself – to problematize the hierarchy between vision and the other senses, as well as that between the seer and the seen.
Rafman introduces works emerging from his latest exploration of online landscapes. Two viewing stations installed in the exhibition space are inspired by the DIY aesthetics of internet trolls .Monitors in these stations feature two new videos by Rafman, including the final film in a recenttrilogy. Rafman also exhibits two painting works from his new image series You Are Standing in an Open Field, depicting scenes of desktops whose keyboard and mouse have been buried under dense layers of quotidian detritus. The screen or monitor is replaced with (or perhaps depicts) a romantic landscape, highlighting the ambiguities and contradictions between the real and the ideal, the prosaic and the sublime, the sacred and the profane. Historically situated, these works are at once portraits, landscape paintings and contemporary still lives, as well as portals into the virtual (visual) sublime.
The black-and-white video The Eye of Dubai chronicles Jankowski’s first trip to the United Arab Emirates, the entirety of which he experiences while blindfolded. Wandering the streets, beaches, deserts, and architecture of Dubai, he and his camera crew film and later edit the whole video without his seeing the footage. His quest for perception through sensory deprivation was also recorded by BBC World News, resulting in a documentary that is exhibited parallel to his video along with a production still. Throughout his conceptual, often video-based practice, Jankowski stages performative projects involving various collaborators, provocatively and poetically reflecting upon the conditions and demands of contemporary society. In this case his first experience of a new culture – in a nation that is hurrying to create its own image on the world stage, having been founded just over 40 years ago – is limited sensorially, and therefore could be considered a “virtual” odyssey, largely a construction of his imagination. The input he receives to comprehend his surroundings during the experience is not only based on his physical perception through touch, taste, smell, and sound, but is also mediated by the description of the places made by accompanying guides. A social and personal construct of a place emerges.
Dubai embodies the ultimate prioritization of appearance, the exploitation of luxury, and the slick visual image that belies the complex or unattractive mechanisms by which it was produced. Opulence and extravagance are the visible aspects of a place that Jankowski actively decides to neglect. On the contrary, his experiences end up being intense interactions with people and his surroundings; riding a camel, touching the paintings in a gallery, visiting the tallest building in the world, and facing a desert falcon are radically different experiences with and without sight. The comical situations that his self-induced blindness creates furthermore allow others to relate to the artist beyond typical social boundaries.
When experienced in conjunction with Jankowski’s, Rafman’s works on display become interpretable as a different kind of journey – a dante-esqueadventure across the far flung corners of the web. Plunging into the depths of Internet obsessions and transgressions, the videos assemble an unsettling parade of images from the mundane to the erotic to the violent, presenting the full breadth and depth of human desires (as much as they could ever be expressed in visual form). As ironic detachment alternates with earnest confession, narratives are evoked but never followed through.
Spaces, virtual or real, are defined by the social relationships that govern them. The meaning of a given interaction can only be interpreted in relation to others. Groups, communities, subjects, and individuals exist in the space of difference, bounded by the invisible relationships that enable and describe them. By pushing the limits of representation, both Rafman and Jankowski find ways to elucidate relationships and experiences beyond that which can be rendered visible.