An obvious circularity is at the center of Jon Rafman’s Erysichthon (2015), presented at the 13th Biennale de Lyon, the final element in a trilogy of videos including Still Life (Betamale) (2013) and Mainsqueeze (2014).
Each takes as its base an exploration of subcultures through internet-user-created content and a literally mediated eye. Whereas Still Life (Betamale) begins exploring the erotica of the deeper internet and Mainsqueeze is anchored by the seeming aggression within this, Erysichthon cuts a broader path. The “Scream” films taught us that “true trilogies are all about going back to the beginning and discovering something that wasn’t true from the get go,” and here this happens as well.
Named for the mythological Greek king cursed with insatiable hunger, the video approaches subjects with both critique and reverence. The snake eating its own tail, appearing early and often in the film, is as mesmerizing as it is banal, referencing the film’s namesake’s demise and Rafman’s view of cultural intake. This symbolism is repeated with the likes of a drone circling its creator and someone on a swing set making a continuous loop. Different voices, once again, tie it together. A video of a child upset with other fans of the videogame character Sonic the Hedgehog becomes a universal indictment when pulled from its original source: “Your fantasies can never be quenched,” and “When will you learn that your actions have consequences.” Other times it sounds identical to Rosamund Pike’s slow voiceover in the film Gone Girl.
Rafman’s skill is taking the bizarre and normalizing it, meanwhile forcing the mundane to become mystical. In the finale of his trilogy he levels subcultures and forces the viewer to reassess the difference between the general and the specific. On the internet, any culture we mass consume becomes our own.