This artwork was developed alongside a larger project exploring the theme of the contingency and intrinsic mutability of history. It combines an image patent for an obsolete entertainment system and a painting of a rhinoceros brought to Venice in the mid-eighteenth century for a carnival. It was only the fifth recorded time that a rhinoceros had been brought to Europe since Roman times.
Through mixing, reframing, and estranging images from their conventional presentations, the work forges new relationships among different historical and cultural references. While directing attention toward the potential of the virtual archive to unveil alternative ways of constructing and preserving our collective and personal histories, the piece also functions much like a palimpsest, opening up a compelling inter-textual space between disparate cultural layers.
Jon Rafman (1981) is an artist, filmmaker, and essayist. He holds a BA in philosophy and literature from McGill University and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His films and artworks have gained international attention and have been exhibited at Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome, the Saatchi Gallery in London, and the New Museum in New York City. Rafman’s work has been featured in Modern Painter, Frieze, Artforum, the New York Times, and Harper’s Magazine. His work examines the effects of technology on the individual, social relations, and contemporary culture at large, with a recent emphasis on online exploration and the digital archive.