Working within several different mediums, Bicknell-Knight’s work responds to the hyper consumerism of the internet, drawing from a unique sensibility influenced by participation in online communities and virtual games. Bicknell-Knight’s work explores the divergent methods by which consumer capitalist culture permeates both online and offline society. Utopian, dystopian, automation, surveillance and digitization of the self are some of the themes that arise through Bicknell-Knight’s critical examination of contemporary technologies. In State of Affairs, Bicknell-Knight exhibits new and previous work in and around an aluminium modular extrusion system, used in office partitions and conveyer belts, concerning the news media, data hacking, and Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook.
Zuckerberg is a private person with a carefully crafted public persona. In public he preaches about digital transparency and encourages users of his social media platform to share as much as possible about their daily lives, stating that the world will become more open and connected by doing so, that a world that’s more open and connected is a better world. Simultaneously, in his private life, Zuckerberg purchased four houses around his home in Palo Alto, California, in 2013 for a total price of $30million. This was due to fears that a property developer was going to build a tall building behind his home, enabling the owners to see into his backyard. A transparent 3D printed sculpture of Zuckerberg’s home (Mark’s House, 2019) is present within the show, created by studying Google Maps’ in-depth satellite imagery.
In a series of new paintings (Mark’s First and Mark’s Second, 2019) Bicknell-Knight looks into the psyche and moral compass of the Facebook founder. Within the works Zuckerberg is portrayed as a trophy hunter, individuals who hunt wild game for recreational purposes.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey stated that there was a year when Zuckerberg was only eating what he was killing and had a penchant for goat meat. Supposedly he would stun goats with a taser, cut their throat with a knife and have their bodies sent to a butcher to prepare. Being served goat for dinner whilst attending a dinner party at Zuckerberg’s house was Dorsey’s most memorable encounter with Zuckerberg. The new paintings imagine that Zuckerberg took this interest in animal killing further, becoming a trophy hunter. At the end of a successful hunt, the hunter will usually pose next to the slain animal for a photograph, to be distributed to friends and family members.
Other works in the exhibition include a replica of Zuckerberg’s grey t-shirt (Mark’s Shirt, 2019) that he wears every day, a Facebook thumbs up hat (Mark’s Hat, 2019), and a custom printed zip top handbag (Unattended Bag, 2018) depicting a slogan that was part of Facebook’s advertising campaign after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Inside the bag is a USB embedded within a gold 3D print of the CEO’s head, containing Bicknell-Knight’s Facebook data from the past ten years.
The final artwork in the exhibition is a recent video commissioned by Daata Editions (State of Affairs, 2018 – 19), a compilation of footage from the YouTube channel News Direct, in which daily news stories, from self-driving buses to social media bots, are transcribed into 3D rendered animations. Non-linear in presentation, the re-appropriated video work illustrates current and future modes of technological interface, from facial recognition software to drone surveillance. Executed in a dated Y2K aesthetic, the work is dystopic and utopic all at once. Akin to the unconscious rituals implemented while existing on the internet, opening tab after tab, clickbait after clickbait, State of Affairs mirrors the inconclusive narrative of our digital lives. The visual content is accompanied by a soothing, melodic soundtrack and augmented voiceover, forewarning of the future of gamified spaces and digital death. The video is contained within a 3D printed USB of the Facebook logo, with Zuckerberg’s face embedded within.
A recently published book by Bicknell-Knight with the same title of the exhibition is also included in the show. The book contains several texts that have been written over the course of a number of years, from exhibition press releases to academic essays, concerning new technologies, future fictions and simulated spaces. The texts are placed alongside a series of stills from the newly commissioned video.
Bob Bicknell-Knight currently lives and works in London, UK.
Selected solo exhibitions include CACOTOPIA 02 at Annka Kultys Gallery, London (2018), Sunrise Prelude at Dollspace, London (2017) and Are we there yet? at Chelsea College of Art, London (2017). Selected group exhibitions include Late Stage at Galerie Manque, New York, USA (2019), Life and Beyond at Lewisham Art House, London (2019), Towards the Last Unicorn at 55SP, São Paulo, Brazil (2019), Trust Is The Ultimate Currency at Harlesden High Street, London (2019), GROUND ZERO EARTH at Alison Richard Building, Cambridge, UK (2019), They Live at Platform Southwark, London (2019), To cite a body at Sluice HQ, London (2019), Inside Intel at Goldsmiths, University of London, London (2018), Total Power Exchange at Galerie Manque, New York, USA (2018), Paper Cuts at Saatchi Gallery, London (2018), Terms and Conditions May Apply at Annka Kultys Gallery, London (2018), The Museum Has Abandoned Us at State of the Art, Berlin, Germany (2017) and The Choice of a New Generation at The Muse Gallery, London (2017).
Bicknell-Knight is also the founder and director of isthisit?, a platform for contemporary art, exhibiting over 800 artists since its creation in May 2016. Online, it operates as a gallery producing monthly exhibitions showcasing emerging to mid-career artists, hosting a roster of guest curators experimenting with the medium of the internet to interrogate a variety of concepts. The website also hosts monthly residencies, where artists are given a web page to create new work that exists on the internet as a piece of net art. Offline, it has held exhibitions nationally and internationally and is the publisher of isthisit?, a book series released on a triannual basis. Bicknell-Knight has spoken on panel discussions and given artist talks at Tate Modern, London, UK (2019), University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK (2019), Camberwell College of Arts, London, UK (2019) and Goldsmiths, University of London, London, UK (2018).
Opening: August 9th, 2019.
Exhibition period: August 10th – September 1st, 2019.