In a colossal building near the center of London, multiple floors and rooms are filled with a disorienting, artificial blue light and scattered with off-putting video works and slime-covered bedroom installations. This is the result of Jon Rafman’s first major solo exhibition in the U.K., happening now at the Zabludowicz Collection, a London project space that displays works from billionaire art collector Poju Zabludowicz’s personal stash. The 33-year-old Canadian artist is having somewhat of a mini-retrospective at the space, with nearly every work of his done in the past few years and even some new, never-before-seen commissions on display.
The show’s most interesting highlight is perhaps the inaugural showing of Sticky Drama (2015), a video work “reflecting the vivid, often violent world of children’s imaginations and games, as well as extending Rafman’s ongoing investigation into the nature of memory and the horror of data loss,” as described by the collection’s press release.
Using the costumes and narrative-style of Live Action Role Playing as a point of departure, Rafman’s video is as haunting as it is mesmerizing. A cast of 35 children adorned in horrifying appendage-like masks and with bulbous growths upon their faces fight and mutilate each other in a tribalistic manner, all done to a chaotic soundtrack by collaborating musician Daniel Lopatin, more popularly known as Oneohtrix Point Never.
Older, better-known works by Rafman are also on display at Zabludowicz. Among them are 2013's Still Life (Betamale), a 5-minute video that feels like a visual and psychological exploration of what it’s like to be addicted to 4Chan and 2014's Mainsqueeze, another video that seeks to describe the complexity of contemporary existence through mounds of found footage and confessional voiceovers.
The rest of the exhibition, which runs until the 20th of December, contains a menagerie of new and bizarre site-specific installations by Rafman, including a large ball-pit available for visitors to dive into, a nightmarish teenage bedroom that looks like it just came from Slime Time Live, and a large, artificial hedge maze adorned with multiple digitally-created sculptural busts at every corner.
If you are around London for Frieze this week (or anytime until December 20th), be sure to make some time to stop by the Zabludowicz Collection for this comprehensive survey of Jon Rafman's work. Sticky Drama was commissioned for this exhibition and cannot be seen online or in any other space while the exhibition continues, making the visit just that much more worth your while.