Saturday, June 20, 2015

Jon Rafman's Sculpture Garden

Sculpture Garden

June 20 - September 13, 2015

Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (referred to as MAC, an abreviation from the French Musée d'art contemporain), has launched a new exhibition. It features two Montreal artists: David Altmejd and Jon Rafman. I found the Jon Rafman's audio-visual installation Sculpture Garden especially relevent. You can see the physical part of the installation in the photo above, the rest exists in an electronically created virtual space of a 360 degrees video and Oculus Rift DK2.

The two physical sculptures are both made from polystyrene. One is covered with a silver leaf and is entitled New Age Demanded (Waverider Silver), 2015. The other is covered with a gold leaf and is entitled New Age Demanded (Futurisimo Gold), 2015. The one covered with a silver leaf looks like a reclining female figure. You can see similar reclining figures on the left, in the Henry Moore's drawing from the Montreal Museum of Fine Art collection. The other piece, covered with the gold leaf, looks like a stylized male bust. Both sculptures are very sleek and stylish.They are wearing very well their respective gold or silver finish, both metals held in great respect by people. Yet this glitter is "skin deep", only a make-believe, since the inside content is quite mundane.

Once you put the required paraphernalia over your eyes and ears, you become totally immersed in an audio-visual virtual reality. It exists around you, and becomes more revealed and intense as you take steps to the left, to the right, or turn backward. The two physical sculptures are constantly present in the virtual landscape that is desolate and even appears to be post-apocalyptic, with a lonely, torn-apart-man-made structure from which pieces of geometrical shapes are flying away in all directions. The strobing, pulsating sound intensifies the vision. The sound is similar to the New-Age brain entrainment type of technology with hypnotic, overpowering, and even invasive quality. Right from the start it comes on with such an intensity that it appears to be the cause of the desolation in this virtual reality, as if representing an aftermath of some sound-wave-weapon attack

The allusion seem to be projected that in the post-apocalyptic scenario trivial human values such as gold and silver, the prestige. the slickness, the richly clad people - all of this is quite irrelevant. It seems to be suggested that at the end only purely aesthetic values survive and counts.

The work deals with deconstructing the physical reality while transforming it into a tightly constructed aesthetic experience. Could the final destruction of the reality, the apocalypse, be for some perceived as an aesthetic experience, moreover, a virtual aesthetic experience since there will be no humans left to experience it in real terms? Or maybe the aesthetics are assuming for some a place of a new "New Age" type of religion?

The inconvenient part of this work - only one person at a time can experience it. And since it takes time, not everybody who would have liked to fully view the piece is going to be able to do so. 

For more information about the current exhibition, or any other exhibitions at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, visit the museum's website.

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