A part mythological and part digital journey has been conceived by Jon Rafman in which the most severe anxieties of the 21st century techno-society melt into an obnoxious 3D-animation. Here, CGI particularly performs as a form of indulgence in excessive transfigurations of mutant bodies. In this exhibition, Rafman shows the post-industrial landscape of a deserted planet inhabited by the progeny of disrupted by pollution, monstrous wildlife and synthetic architectural complexes. These structures serve as venues for enigmatic primitive cults of the future, combined with dance clubs for electricity junkies, where visitors are entertained by fights to the death between bizarre creatures. This is the nightmarish ‘Dream Journal’ of Rafman, which brings the protagonist Xanax girl to life through mutant data-farming techniques. Xanax girl seems to be a biotech product of the school of her clones that also functions as a network infrastructure linking many parts of the animation. “We are just the copies of copies,” they repeat with a creepy sense of déjà vu.
The feature film ‘Dream Journal’ presented at the Venice Biennale is the result of three years of exploration into 3D simulated environments (2016-2019). Throughout an extremely dense 94 minutes, Rafman radically experiments with imaginary worlds populated by a plethora of obscene biotech mutants. CGI reveals the dark vitality of techno-materialism that melds post-human forms with chimerical beasts, monstrous insects and Japanese sexual perversions. BDSM Tokyo schoolgirls, eaten out by giant snails, cry sperm-milk from Janus faces growing from their anuses. Their topsy-turvy bodies twist and collapse in a digital reinvention of butoh dance. They date half-hedgehog, half-walrus boys who fight against each other in staged lethal wrestling matches inside dubious techno clubs of tropical spacecraft decor. Xanax girl is obsessively attracted to one (or two) of them. As she embarks on a journey filled with platform computer game style booby traps and post-apocalyptic military bars that unfold her paranoid mind states, she allows herself to be penetrated by various medical apparatuses, only to surrender her body to techno shamanist occult rites that disintegrate and twist her corporeal self still further.
All the realms of ‘Dream Journal’ are connected by mutant transfigurations that challenge the human form over and over again. The database institution that extracts Xanax girl from her clones also links distant events through networks of canals. Digital excrements become the most fertile media for mutant communications. Shit-hole orifices have sex with various enslaved bodies and feed on their inner organs. In effect, the produce of computer-manipulated canal digestion is served as pet food to giant caterpillars that swell and multiply into new energy sources.
Rafman exposes the fetishistic spillage of repressed desire online, tapping into almost half century old Japanese ‘hentai’ monster pornography strategies of eluding censorship. Since the 1970s Ero Guro movement in Tokyo, hentai has answered to state prohibitions against sex by creating fertile subspecies of tentacle monsters that twist around no-longer-human bodies and penetrate their dislocated orifices gaping in-between feverishly multiplying mammillae. Rafman has created several side characters that directly reference the abused demons girls of Toshio Saeki (master of Japanese erotica). These figures perfidiously maneuver the protagonist Xanax girl into bizarre interactions with hybrid creatures, which merge insectoid bodies with warty growths or mollusc-like pseudopods inspired by Horihone Saizuo (infamous cult hentai master). Eroticism is transferred here into the primal function of external digestion. Inside out guts performing pornographic figurations transgress the sphere of human sexuality and pull us into the desperate technological cannibalism of incestuous mutants.
The ongoing project ‘Dream Journal’ is an epic that reworks the traumas of the human body in the Internet era. 3D renderings of monstrosities are bred from the very desires projected by a culture of digital technologies. The plot forks into paranoid networks by pulling the viewer through severely methodical Role Play Game scenarios of encounters with alien creatures. Jon Rafman has made an extraordinary effort to collect mutant phantom limbs and chimerical flesh from all over the deep dark underbelly of the Internet. They are melded into a mythological journey of a near present where our addiction to technological stimuli feeds itself.