PRINT November 2017

Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman, Transdimensional Serpent, 2016, mixed media with VR video (color, sound, 4 minutes 38 seconds).

I BELIEVE THAT transformations in technology always follow earlier shifts in consciousness. Technological developments can therefore reveal things about how personal consciousness and social conditions have changed.

So what can we learn from the emergence of virtual reality? For one thing, VR suggests that reality itself has become permeated with the virtual. More and more, we understand the human brain as a computer made of flesh, and our online existence is increasingly intertwined with our real selves.

Secondly, VR’s success tells us something about the nature of attention. I imagine a past where one could have an immersive experience simply by looking at a painting. Now, because I am so inundated with data and images, I am continually distracted. What effect does this information overload have on the mind? Do I need to be ripped out of reality, and placed into a simulation, in order to have a coherent, focused experience? Have I reached the point where in order to captivate a viewer, I have to first entrap them in a headset and control their perceptions completely?

Jon Rafman is a Montreal-based artist.