Jon Rafman (CA)

Open Heart Warrior, 2016
Three-channel HD video with sound, 13 mins 30; powder-coated steel frame, steel grating, custom seating


Jon Rafman is an artist and filmmaker whose work examines the effects of contemporary technology, particularly on interpersonal relationships. This three-screen film by the Montreal-based artist reflects on human needs and desires in relation to digitality, drawing parallels between spa facilities and the virtual world of gaming.

The video splices together digitally created natural landscapes sourced from video games with dark images inspired by the same world: scenes of lush rural splendor are paired with gruesome realities of imprisonment, death and decay. The soundtrack combines a calm voice (which breaks down during it’s repetitive cycles)  instructing us to relax within a disintegrating environment, which gradually develops into an abstract nightmarish ambiance filled with flashes of gore and violence.


The work’s immersive staging is inspired by both spa architecture and DIY gaming setups. In the work, and it’s physical design, Rafman suggests that immersive gaming can induce a momentary out-of-body experience in the same way as a mindfulness exercise. Moving quickly between disturbing scenes to idyllic landscapes, Rafman’s work creates a contradictorily restful sense of unease, further blurring the boundaries between reality and the unreal.