Jon Rafman (CA)


Open Heart Warrior, 2016
Three-channel HD video with sound (13.30 min); installation


Most game worlds are designed to be immersive, experiential and intricate. Games like Call of Duty are used to make soldiers better shooters, and drone operators train using flight simulators. Now, more than ever, the virtual and the real bleed into one another, becoming indistinct. How does this affect the way we see both spaces, and the roles we play within them?

Open Heart Warrior splices together digitally-created landscapes, all sourced from video games. Scenes of lush, rural splendour are paired with gruesome realities of imprisonment, death and decay. The soundtrack features a calm voice (which breaks down during its repetitive cycles) instructing us to relax while the environment disintegrates into an abstract nightmare.


The work’s panoramic staging is inspired by both spa architecture and DIY gaming setups, suggesting that immersive gaming can induce a momentary out-of-body experience in the same way as a mindfulness exercise. Rafman’s work creates a contradictorily restful sense of unease, further blurring the boundaries between reality and the unreal.


Jon Rafman (b. 1981) is a Canadian artist and filmmaker based in Montreal, whose work examines the effects of contemporary technology, particularly on interpersonal relationships.

Originally commissioned for Manifesta 11. Courtesy of the artist.