Janis Rafa uses films and sculptures to create pictorial narratives that illuminate universal themes such as mortality and our ritualised approach to loss, as well as the relationship between humans and animals, and between humans, animals and the landscape.

‘Non-Humans’ is a term that alludes not just to the animal world, but also to robots and computer-driven, ‘post-human’ systems. Eaten by Non-Humans can be seen as a visual essay that addresses the question of the hierarchy between humans and non-humans. Do non-humans experience feelings of love, compassion and sorrow? Do they have rights? Rafa’s work touches on these political questions: she examines the usual ranking order between humans and non-humans and subjects it to poetic disruption.


Video work in the public space in Utrecht

Rafa’s A Sign of Prosperity to the Dreamer will be the first video work to be displayed on the new outdoor façade screens: everyone in Utrecht will be able to see it. The film, made in 2014, was specially adapted for six screens at the corner of Agnietenstraat 3 and Nicolaaskerkhof, and will be shown every day starting in October.

Work and method

The films Father Gravedigger and Our Dead Dogs (part of the trilogy Three Farewells) are characteristic of Rafa’s work and her method. The titles allude to the ritual of burial. Amid a vast and largely abandoned landscape, Rafa introduces simple but dramatic situations. Rafa’s films are located at the intersection between fiction and documentary. In consequence, her work is realistic and yet has an intangible air to it. Without words or music, Rafa creates associative and fictional visual stories in which she reverses the positions between humans and hon-humans. Here we find, for instance, a dog tending a deceased human being. And a hybrid woman with six nipples suckling young puppies. By using mythological or religious symbols and metaphors, Rafa invokes the collective memory of her viewers. Rafa has a cinematographic gaze and uses light-dark contrasts to convey a post-apocalyptic atmosphere of mourning. At other times she films with an “extreme long shot”, which gives the landscape a majestic look and reduces the isolated figures to insignificant creatures, diminutive parts of a larger whole.

About the artist

Janis Rafa is a young Greek artist who divides her time and working life between Amsterdam and Athens. Rafa studied Fine Arts at the University of Leeds, where she was awarded a PhD on the strength of a thesis on video art. In 2013–2014 she served as artist-in-residence at the Rijksakademie. Her work has previously been shown at locations including the EYE Film Museum, Amsterdam (2016), Palazzo Strozzi, Florence (2015), the 56th Venice Biennale (parallel event, 2015), the International Film Festival Rotterdam (2015), the State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki (2011), and the Thessaloniki Biennale (2009). Rafa is represented by Galerie Martin van Zomeren. She is currently working on a feature film in connection with De Verbeelding. De Verbeelding is a collaborative venture between the Film Fund and the Mondrian Fund that enables visual artists to produce their first feature film.

With thanks to:

The Mondrian Fund, the public cultural funding organization focusing on visual arts and cultural heritage. In addition, the Mondrian Fund granted an award in the context of the experimental regulation of the artist’s wages.

Thanks are also due to Dominic van de Boogerd, who wrote a reflective essay on Rafa’s work on the occasion of this exhibition.