Jon Rafman – Mainsqueeze, 2014
Courtesy of the artist; Seventeen Gallery, London; Future Gallery, Berlin; and Feuer/Mesler, New York.
Canadian artist Jon Rafman’s thrilling and at times ghastly short film Mainsqueeze embodies the artist’s interest in a world where online subcultures and fetish communities rule. A person dressed in an animal suit and tied up with cords, pictures of unconscious/drunk men, Hentai or pornographic anime: the movie is a continuance of images found in the darker and seedier corners of the internet.
As most of his film works, Mainsqueeze is composed of online found footage. The voice-over text is a combination of quotes from literature, Tumblr and comments on various blogs. Convinced of the internet’s abundance of images, Rafman does not start his work from a blank slate but appropriates already existing material. Through searching, selecting and editing he gives selected extracts a new, possibly more abstract life. Although the works are not about shocking people or displaying fetishes, the images can be quite disturbing. Watching the ‘crush-fetish’ scene wherein a women crushes a live shellfish is for most people difficult to watch.
One of the drunken men in the movie has ‘Loser’ written on his forehead. Does the viewer feel addressed? In a way the viewer becomes a part of the ambiguous dynamics between watching and being watched. The voice-over adds to this uncanny feeling of being somewhere one should not be, watching something one should not watch. The voice speaks to the viewer directly and invites him to immerse in this digital underworld. And this is exactly what Rafman does: blurring boundaries between reality and the virtual and inviting us to join this bizarre reality of attraction and repulsion.