Public Art, Amazon Pickers and Interviews
It's been a little over a month and the whole world seems to have changed drastically since then. Due to all the museums and galleries closing I have unfortunately lost both of my monetary jobs for the time being which has been quite distressing. Other than that, my solo show in Letchworth opened last month, although obviously it has unfortunately been closed and will probably never reopen, at least some people got to see it and I have the photos. I’ve been making some new work since then, creating new paintings about Amazon warehouses alongside putting together a proposal for a public sculpture open call. The Brussels show has also been delayed, of course, and group shows I was set to be in have either been closed or postponed indefinitely. I hate that word, like this will be how it is forever.
So, Bit Rot, my solo show at Broadway Studio + Gallery opened last month, which I felt really positive about. I was a little worried about the floor based installations, but actually everything ‘felt’ nicely positioned and not that overcrowded in the end. I think there’s something like 30 or so floor based sculptures in total, so a lot of potential to be overcrowded, but actually it was a solid amount for how much space I was given. All in all it’s been a really positive experience, working with the gallery and Kristian Day, the curator there. They had a great time of technicians to hang the show, which was much appreciated, and the private view felt nice, serving gin and tonics, which is a lovely private view drink. It’s a shame the show had to close, but what can you do? I’ll post a few pictures below, although for all the photographs head to my website here - www.bobbicknell-knight.com/bit-rot If anyone reading this is interested in any of the works, or the editions, please do send me an email at email@example.com
It felt good to finish and have that large body of work behind me, it’s nice to move forwards with new ideas and thoughts. I recently applied for the ICA New Creatives open call, where you submit a proposal for a new video work, focusing on Amazon and its warehouse employees, called pickers. I probably won’t get it, but it’s nice to think about new work and developing these types of proposals. If I don’t get it, I’ll more than likely make the work anyway, accompanied by a number of paintings of these pickers and the conditions that they work within, which I have already started to make. Below is some bits from my proposal, alongside images from the new paintings.
Please provide a logline (a very brief summary) of the work you’d like to produce (no more than 25 words):
To produce an animated video of the outside of an Amazon Fulfilment Centre accompanied by testimonies from workers who have previously worked inside their warehouses.
Please summarise your work in greater detail, including key points about narrative and/or structure (in 150 words or less):
The work will be a brief exploration of what happens within an Amazon Fulfilment Centre (warehouse), where Amazon workers (called Pickers) load trolley's full of items, to be loaded onto trucks for next day delivery.
Within the video, on two thirds of the screen, you will first see a slowly revolving 3D architectural model of a Fulfilment Centre, complete with delivery trucks arriving and leaving the facility, alongside people walking in and out. This will continue throughout the video, including background sounds of trucks driving and quiet murmurs from workers arriving and leaving.
On the other third of the screen will be a simple outline of the portrait of a figure, anonymising them. Throughout the video their will be various voiceovers giving testimonies of person's experiences of working within an Amazon warehouse, with subtitles slowly moving down the third of the screen.
Please explain the themes you intend to explore and the work’s stylistic approach (no more than 300 words):.
The video will be exploring Amazon and how its various warehouses all over the world are monuments to late capitalism, utilising hundreds of human bodies to collaborate with intelligent machines in order to fulfill order after order and product after product. The piece will be a comment and critique of Amazon's ethical and moral compass with regards to their employees mental health, questioning whether they overwork their staff and undervalue their unique human sensibilities in favour of hitting target after target.
For the work the animation will be very slick and refined, aesthetically hyper-realistic, looking at the Warehouse from a drone's eye view. This animation style will be an attempt at mimicking how Amazon portrays its warehouses online and in the media, as a perfect place to work and preserved forever in a pristine, unspoilt condition. The subtitles and font will be the same as the style used in the Amazon's scanners, used by Pickers to scan items unique codes in order to verify them. The silhouette will be simple, mimicking the Amazon user login digital silhouette.
I hope that the piece would explore the dehumanisation of workers within low paying, menial jobs, and the scarcity and threat of automation that is omnipresent whilst inhabiting spaces that rely on human bodies for simple tasks.
I also put together an application for a public sculpture project based in Portugal, where a number of new sculptures are commissioned every year to reside within a public wood for 18 months. Below is the basic outline of my project proposal, accompanied by image mock ups. Although, again, I probably won’t get this, I would really love the opportunity at some point in my artistic career to produce a work that resides within a public space, especially a wood or a public park, etc. I think it would just feel quite nice to have something that lives in that environment.
For the POLDRA open call, I am proposing to create a new series of sculptures to be displayed as a static installation, to be manoeuvred around and interacted with by the general public. Titled Fair Game, the work would consist of a number of 3D printed life size autonomous robotic dogs, with their different forms inspired by the real-life robot dogs currently being developed and produced by the American company Boston Dynamics.
The work imagines a future where these robot dogs are being utilised for military warfare, adorned with various forms of camouflage paint and prowling Fontelo Wood in packs of five for their prey.
The title of the new artwork, Fair Game, is inspired by a 1953 short story written by Philip K. Dick, whereby the protagonist, Anthony Douglass, believes he is being watched by something god like. At the end of the story the reader learns that the man is nothing more than game for malevolent creatures using Earth as a hunting ground. The sculptural installation embodies this idea of being watched from the shadows, alongside emphasising the fact that many believe that autonomous robots will soon reach the technological singularity, a hypothetical future point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization, where our once robotic slaves will transform into our masters.
The Fontelo Wood would be a fantastic location for the work to reside within, allowing the general public to interact with the different sculptures, and inspiring conversations around automation and the use of digital technologies within artworks and in general.
I also published the online show that I was organising last month, including work by Lydia Blakeley, Naomi Fitzsimmons, Johnny Izatt-Lowry, Perce Jerrom and Lilli Mathod. It’s called Office Space. The show seeks to exhibit artworks that consider the inherent violence embedded within the aesthetics, language and visual identity of corporate culture and office buildings. The artworks included in the exhibition explore various issues that arise when inhabiting such environments, from documenting the experience of being a flexi worker within an all-male financial recruitment company to surveying the numerous personas and personalities that one might encounter at a speed networking event.
Taking inspiration from the architecture within The Stanley Parable, a video game that sees the player guided through a series of never-ending office spaces in a choose your own adventure like narrative, the works included in Office Space are presented to you via a series of lines and arrows, encouraging viewers to explore and extend their web browser, although ultimately trapped within a grey cube. The exhibition is online at www.isthisitisthisit.com/office-space if you want to see it.
As I’m currently unemployed due to the pandemic and looking for ways of making money, I made five new works for a new initiative called the artists support pledge, where basically you sell a number of works, all for £200 or below, and once you reach £1000 you pledge to buy another artists work for £200 or below whose also doing the pledge. It’s a fun, small thing that should allow artists to make a micro economy to fuel themselves in this time of crisis. Happily I’ve already sold two pieces, but if you’re interested in any of the below works please do get in touch via email - firstname.lastname@example.org - or messaging me on Instagram - www.instagram.com/bob.bk1/. The works are part of my ongoing series of trophy hunter pieces, featuring Mark Zuckerberg and his animal killings. They’re fairly small works, 20 x 30 cm, and are quite nice if I do say so myself.
I’ve also begun working on a series of works about commercial drones and their use in various forms of government sanctioned work, by firefighters and law enforcement. It’s quite early on, with simple paintings for now, but we’ll see what happens. Visually they’re quite appealing to me.
One of the tiny upsides of this is that I’ve been asked to be interviewed by a few places about my work with online exhibitions. Anna Meinecke from gallerytalknet spoke to me about my feelings towards online shows cropping up literally everywhere at the moment. Below is our short conversation, and here’s the link to the interview online in German - www.gallerytalk.net/nie-wieder-triste-viewing-rooms/
Q: Galleries, museums and fairs have been hectically putting up viewing rooms. As someone who has been exhibiting online for quite some time: What’s your take on recent art world activities?
A: It’s been interesting to see it happen, and to happen so quickly. I do think it’s great that the current pandemic has made people value online projects a lot more than they probably did originally, but the majority of ‘online exhibitions’ that I’ve seen cropping up haven’t been taking into account the actual medium of the internet at all, the interactivity, what you can do on a website, etc.
From browsing a few online spaces, the ‘online exhibition’ is basically an image or video of an artwork accompanied by text about the piece. If it’s an online art fair then the work has been digitally altered to make it look like it’s hanging in a white cube gallery space. Their ‘online exhibition’ is just a basic web page, a blank space that galleries, museums and art fairs have assumed is akin to the white walls of the offline space that they used to inhabit. I think and know that it’s a lot more than that. I think a lot of these spaces have consciously ignored the fact that you can do a lot more with a website than simply placing images next to text, whether that’s because it’s easy and fast to create a show this way or they just can’t be bothered to consider other, more interesting and interactive avenues.
Q: What factors should exhibitors take into consideration before showing art online?
A: I think there’s a lot to consider, as again there’s a lot you can do with the online space. As I said before, it’s great that people are becoming more interested, and taking the online exhibition more seriously, but it’s a lot more than simply putting artworks and text on a page. I think the average user spends less than a minute on a web page, akin to the statistic about people spending only seconds looking at paintings within a physical gallery space. For me this is the most important factor to take into consideration, alongside the fact that every viewer within this online space has the ability to simply close their current tab and continue watching their favourite TV show, writing an email or literally doing anything else. The format of the online exhibition needs to be exciting and stimulating, enticing your viewer to stay on the page. Of course the art needs to be exciting too, but if it’s presented in a dull and dated format you’re not going to stick around.
Q: What’s the difference between the clean online exhibitions of big institutions or galleries and what you are doing?
A: With the shows I curate on the isthisit? platform I try to intertwine the format of the exhibition with the general conceit of the show, alongside making the interactivity crucial, providing the viewer with an environment of sorts to explore. I don’t really see this happening with the larger institutions, probably because it’s slightly more complicated for a person to navigate through that type of experience, in order to ‘find’ the art. Obviously this ignores the fact that the online exhibition within itself is an artwork, with the act of putting together an online show being an artistic decision. When exploring these digital shows you are a part of and interacting with an artwork, in order to find more artworks buried within. A piece that takes this idea to the extreme is the internet art collective JODI and one of their main websites wwwwwwwww.jodi.org, where you click through hyperlinked text to explore an artwork of sorts, or there’s Cassie McQuater’s Black Room, a browser-based video game that you explore by changing the size and shape of your internet browser. These are both examples of artists making artworks, but I see the online show in the same way, with the journey being the art too, rather than the website being another white cube.
Q: If our readers just want to get a quick idea of what’s possible: Which three shows up on isthisit should they go see?
A: There’s a number of shows on the platform that utilise this idea of interactivity well, one of them being When I Grew Up (my own private ZAD by the sea), a group show curated by Data Rhei back in 2018, featuring work from Louise Ashcroft, Iyas D-Toth, Corentin Darré, Adem Elahel, Lisa Fetva, Fleury Fontaine, Hanne Lippard, Erin Mitchell, Jonathan Monaghan, Sara Sadik and Claire Serres, with the map designed by Ugo-Lou Chmod. Various clickable letters move around the screen, leaving a trail, and when clicked you can see the artists work.
Another show, that’s a little more simple, is called Please don't stand in the middle of the road waiting for me to get you on camera, and was curated by me and launched in 2019 with work by Aram Bartholl, Petra Cortright, Benjamin Grosser, Joe Hamilton and Pilvi Takala. In the show you’re presented with a map route, with different images representing each artists work, to click on and experience.
The final online show I’ll recommend, although there are 95 in total to explore, is If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to Instagram it, does it really happen?, curated in 2018 by ITS KIND OF HARD TO EXPLAIN (IKO), originally made up of artists Corey Bartle-Sanderson, Steven Gee and Oliver Durcan. The collective invited a number of artists and writers, including Caitlin Merrett King, Isobel Wohl, George Yarker and Jack Brindley, to produce a piece of writing following on from themes in one another’s texts. So each new text responded to the last, in a way this show was extremely interactive, although for the artists rather than the viewer.
Q: What’s interesting to me is: One might think visiting an online exhibition is just a few quick clicks, but actually – at least for me – I need to be in a much clearer headspace to experience the often complex worlds artists come up with. It’s more demanding than just entering a white cube. Or I’m not as used to navigate that kind of presentation?
A: As I said before, if you’re doing it right, i.e. organising an online exhibition that’s interactive and enticing, the online show should be more demanding to some extent, but then again, aren’t the most interesting offline exhibitions demanding, warranting a lot more time spent to experience and understand the exhibition? On the other hand, a lot of the online museum shows I’m seeing are displaying work like it’s in a museum, with an artwork plainly displayed in front of you with a long explanatory text beside it. That way of displaying is demanding, demanding of the viewers time and energy, passing the responsibility to understand and interact with an artwork in a fruitful way onto the viewer, rather than coming up with and exploring new ways of showcasing art in the digital space.
Q: You’re also offering a residency on your platform which includes the instagram as well. What makes a good instagram presentation? (Do you prefer it well curated or messy? Work based or personal? Etc.)
A: I think that’s up to each individual person, although you do have to keep in mind that your Instagram account is your most important promotional tool, where you’re effectively selling yourself and your work to the world, so I personally try to make it as clean and easy to understand as possible.
The online residency is mostly to do with the website, and giving over space on the site for artists to create a new piece of net art, to document a work in progress, etc. The access to the Instagram account is so that artists can update and entice the isthisit? viewer base to interact with the art on the website.
Q: What is it about the internet that attracted you as an artist/curator in the first place?
A: I launched isthisit? in the middle of 2016 as a simple, easy and cost effective way of learning about what a curator was and could be. I hadn’t even thought about curating before that and was incredibly naïve. Also at the time I was studying for my BA in Fine Art at university, and no one in my group of friends was making work that aligned with my own interests, so I decided to turn to the internet and to create a platform that allowed me to interact with hundreds of artists and curators around the world who were making and curating work that I had, and continue to be, influenced by. Also at the time I was only just discovering and being really excited by artists like Constant Dullaart and Harm van den Dorpel, artists who utilise the internet as their chosen medium, so wanted to be a small part of that digital space.
Q: And what is it that excites you the most about it now?
A: I’m still really excited that I can work with so many different people from all over the world by simply sending emails from my flat in London, alongside the fact that anyone with an internet connection can view artwork based on the internet. These are the some of the main reasons why I keep the platform alive and continue to curate online shows.
Eleonora Angiolini from Rotunda magazine also got in touch, speaking to me about isthisit? and everything that I do through it, a lot less about the current pandemic and just about the platform. Below is our short conversation, although it’s yet to be published so things may change or be added:
Q: Can you give us some insight into your background and what was the starting point of isthisit??
A: I launched isthisit? in the middle of 2016 as a simple, easy and cost effective way of learning about what a curator was and could be. Also at the time I was studying for my BA in Fine Art at university, and no one in my group of friends was making work that aligned with my own interests, so I decided to create a digital platform that resided on the internet, allowing me to interact with hundreds of artists and curators around the world who were making and curating work that I had, and continue to be, influenced by. I began the platform by hosting weekly online exhibitions, which slowly evolved into organising an online residency and inviting other curators to produce online exhibitions for the platform, alongside curating offline exhibitions and designing and editing a series of books.
Since leaving university a few years ago, I have been working as an art technician for an art logistics company, alongside being a gallery manager for a small commercial space in London. These more monetary focused jobs fund my work as an artist and curator.
Q: I understand that “Office Space”, the last exhibition you curated on the platform, is set to explore various issues that arise when inhabiting the corporate and office environments. Could you tell us about your approach in presenting this?
A: For Office Space I invited five artists working in the UK to exhibit work within the curatorial framework of the exhibition, that of office spaces and the violence embedded within them. The shows aesthetic and presentation was highly influenced by the architecture of The Stanley Parable, a highly successful 2011 video game about choice and consequence in video games. Within the game there are nineteen endings, with various diverging paths that you as the player can take. At the beginning, and throughout the game, you navigate through the environment of a seemingly endless grey office, destined somewhat to be trapped within. Although you never encounter another living being within the game world, you feel the presence of other bodies that have only recently left or abandoned this working space. Occasionally you will follow arrows that have been painted onto the office walls, floors and ceilings.
Within the online environment of the exhibition you as the viewer are presented with a white background, with various grey lines and arrows pointing you in a number of directions, inviting you to explore the site and to discover the works hidden within. It’s very stripped back, mimicking the abandoned offices in the video game, and all that has occurred there.
Q: Did your curatorial vision changed its directions during these years and how?
A: It’s definitely developed to some extent, the early online exhibitions that I was putting together were incredibly simple with very loose curatorial themes, mostly relying on open calls to discover artists and their work. I still have open calls for some projects, but usually for the exhibitions I put together I’ll reach out to specific artists to work with. In the beginning I was curating shows about anything and everything, with the main context being that it was based on the internet. Now it’s a little different, with my curatorial and artistic practice going hand in hand. If the concepts I’m dealing with in my own art works change so does my curatorial interests.
One way of charting my interests over the past four years is to look at the books I’ve published through isthisit?, one issue a few years ago looked at video game culture and how the Gamergate controversy had affected the gaming industry, whereas later issues were concerned with the rise of artificial intelligence and the culture surrounding fake news and alternative facts.
My ideas and interests continue to evolve and change, although I still like to work with a variety of artists, both emerging and established, on online and offline projects.
Q: How would you describe the collaborative dynamic between you and the artists you choose for the online residency? As an artist/curator, has there been a particular highpoint for you while specifically working on this section of the platform?
A: I wouldn’t necessarily call the online residency a collaboration between myself and the artists that I work with. In the relationship I am merely a facilitator, providing a platform for the artists who do almost a hundred percent of the work. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy working with the resident artists, seeing how their work develops over the month, but I like to make it clear that the residency is all about the artist and rarely about me and the platform.
The highpoints are when I see artists, months or years after taking part in the residency, being in exhibitions and being selected for various things, in part because of their inclusion in the program. For me that’s the most important thing, providing artists with a space to show their work and to be seen by other artists and curators who will potentially provide them with opportunities in the future.
Q: As an online based project, are there specific challenges isthisit? faces in terms of funding and what are your strategies to overcome them?
A: For the time being the platform is solely funded by myself, with very little to no budget. I have tried various strategies in the past, setting up an online shop, beginning a Patreon, etc, but none have been very fruitful. I hope that in the future I can get arts council funding for the project, but for some time it's not been the most feasible option. For several years I ran isthisit? whilst I was still at university, so was unable to apply for funding during that time. Since graduating I've had to have multiple jobs at a time to sustain myself living in London, whilst simultaneously trying to move forward in my artistic and curatorial endeavours, which has severely restricted my time and ability to apply for funding for the platform. I also run the project all by myself, so sometimes things take a lot longer than they would if I had a team behind me.
The platform relies heavily on the generosity of artists and their time, which I am ever thankful for. I have had curatorial opportunities given to me because of my work with isthisit?, and whenever that does occur and there's money involved, I try to work with artists that have worked with me in the past.
Q: Can you highlight which you consider the most significant online based projects that are shaping the future of contemporary art?
A: There are lots of online projects out there that I admire, one of my favourite being New Scenario, run by Paul Barsch and Tilman Hornig, and their selection of offline/online projects. Their shows usually revolve around a selection of artworks being brought to an offline space, heavily documented and then posted online for visitors to explore. My favourite show of theirs is from 2017 and titled HOPE, where you explore a zombie infested university campus by navigating through a number of 360-degree panoramic scenes. I also really like Off Site Project and how they refuse to archive any of their online exhibitions, treating their shows like an offline gallery. If you miss a show you can’t experience it ever again. Daata Editions is a really important figurehead in the online space, commissioning artists to make exclusive artworks to be sold and viewed on their platform. I think money is what a lot of online projects lack, so Daata providing mostly digital artists with a source of income is incredibly significant.
Q: What’s next? What do you see for the future of the project?
A: With the current coronavirus pandemic, either cancelling or postponing many of my current and future offline exhibitions, alongside loosing me my more monetary focused jobs, I’m not really sure to be honest. I’m currently in the midst of organising an offline exhibition about algorithmic bias, which will hopefully open in late June at [Senne] in Brussels, with the opening coinciding with Art Brussels. In my own artistic practice I also currently have a solo show on at Broadway Studio Gallery in Letchworth, a town near London, although this of course has been closed indefinitely.
In terms of the online parts of the platform, which will of course continue throughout this painful time, we have a show coming up that’s curated by collective çukurcuma, a curatorial collective based in Istanbul, San Francisco and London. We also have an upcoming online exhibition scheduled that’s being curated by Jack Smurthwaite, an independent curator based in London. We also have a number of ongoing open calls that anyone can apply to, including curating an online exhibition on the platform and being an online resident. There's also an open call for our next physical book, all about digital love, which you can also apply to with your artwork and essays.
I’d like the project to continue to grow and evolve, hopefully in the future being able to pay the artists I work with, or get them paid in some way through various commercial endeavours, which I am occasionally able to do. Without the artists I work with there would be no online gallery, for me they’re the most important aspect of the entire process, and will continue to be long into the future.
So that was fun, as I haven’t really been interviewed for a little while. I’m also posting them here as many times in the past I have been asked some questions or been interviewed for something, which has never actually been published.
Other than that, I’ve also spoken with David from Daata about doing another project with him, although it’s very much in it’s preliminary stages and may not even happen. It would be similar in scale and scope as the last funded project I did with him. I’ve written a small bit about what the potential online show would be about, seen below:
Piper in the Woods
An exhibition of works responding to the current global pandemic, Piper in the Woods contains newly commissioned artworks that explore the idea of the simulated, virtual space, both escaping to and being trapped within this endless, and somewhat unknown, environment.
Piper in the Woods takes its title from the 1953 short story of the same name by Philip K Dick. The story sees the protagonist, army doctor Henry Harris, examining the mental health of several soldiers who, after travelling to a remote asteroid, return to Earth believing that they have transformed into plants. Rather than working, they now spend their time sitting in the sun, philosophising about how work, and particularly space travel, is unnecessary.
I quite like the idea that every show I’ve produced for Daata Editions has been titled after a Philip K Dick short story or book title, beginning with Flow My Tears, then Beyond The Door and now (hopefully) Piper in the Woods. It’s a nice arc which I hope to continue.
I’d like to curate another show for isthisit? during this time, although it’s hard as I wouldn’t want to curate something too overt and obvious, about the current crisis. I’ll have a little think over the next few days and see where I get to. Anyway, I think that’s it for the time being in terms of my own practice.
Fortunately in the few weeks after my most recent blog post and all the galleries closing, I did manage to go to a few shows. In no particular order, let’s begin with Louise Bonnet and their show at Galerie Max Hetzler that was evocatively titled New Works. The paintings were nice, presenting various inflated bodies in surreal landscapes and spaces. It was a fun but unimaginative show.
I Should Be Doing Something Else Right Now, a group show at Gallery 31, was fine, showing works by Maeve Brennan, Vivienne Griffin, rkss & Laura Fox, Rhea Storr, Sam Williams & Roly Porter. It felt like it worked visually but I didn’t really connect to it mentally.
Oxymoron by Oli Epp at Carl Kostyál was okay, although I like some of the works, it feels very much like the type of artist who makes work literally about whatever they want, and don’t have a specific interest in mind. Some of them I do enjoy, although as they’re mostly made with airbrush, a form of painting I’m not that into, the majority feel a little off. I don’t know how to describe it but works made using an airbrush just feel a little too flat and perfect for me. I dunno…
Alina Szapocznikow at Hauser & Wirth was fun, with lots of works made from body parts and faces. I particularly enjoyed this lamp.
Isa Genzken, also at Hauser & Wirth, was showing a number of works about travel and windows. The most interesting piece, a room scale installation, included a number of air cabin seats from an airplane, accompanied by commercial airline windows too. From simply a visual point of view, I thoroughly enjoyed the work.
Jordan Wolfson’s show ARTISTS FRIENDS RACISTS at Sadie Coles was good, one of the first artworks I have seen that utilises 3D holographic displays well. It was fun, although content wise not as enticing as his previous show at Sadie Coles or his works in general.
Marc Brandenburg's exhibition Snowflake at Thaddaeus Ropac was fun, lots of drawings seemingly randomly arranged and displayed, all lit from a number of UV lights in the gallery. I particularly enjoyed this image of a Yoda street performer.
Also at Thaddaeus Ropac was a duo show from the Harun Farocki estate and Hito Steyerl, artists that I of course love. However, the show was a bit of a shame, no new work, so everything I had already seen before in various other locations, and the work that was there felt incredibly stifled by the setting; a very fancy gallery situated within what was a private house that’s been converted into a gallery space. The work, of course, was good, but I’m not going to sit on some steps to watch a forty-minute film. I dunno, it felt like a missed opportunity, there works obviously work together well but it felt like they had chosen the wrong works to show, in my opinion, but what do I know…
The group show, (This) precious stone set in the silver sea at Copperfield contained work by Irene de Andrés, Erola Arcalís, Inés Cámara Leret, Yorgos Petrou, Stéphanie Saadé, Oscar Santillán + Yoko Ono, and was curated by Aina Pomar. I enjoyed the general aesthetic of the works, especially this piece by Oscar Santillán featuring a found shoe filled with water with a rotating beetle in the middle. It felt very earthy and watery.
I enjoyed Cynthia Daignault’s show Vape Smoke at The Sunday Painter. It featured a number of well painted replicas of everyday objects, like a water bottle or a hamburger. I really liked the style of painting too, blobby but precise. I wish I could paint like that, this kind of painting feels very effortless, where you can see every brushstroke and are highly aware of how many dots it took to make the work.
Also on at The Sunday Painter was Leo Fitzmaurice’s Autosuggestions, which was basically a series of car headlights which have been cut in half and stuck back together, forcing their ‘eyes’ together to make them look like faces. If I had money I would definitely just buy one, as they just seem very fun and light.
Lauren Gault’s solo show C I T H R A at Gasworks was really fantastic, and very well curated. They always have the best, highly considered, shows. Here’s a link to the artist speaking about the show, which will be a lot more informative and interesting then anything I have to say about it - https://vimeo.com/398642523
Any Second Now was a group show at ASC studios, featuring work from Aidan Strudwick, Sid and Jim, Sophie Popper and Tom Coates. I really enjoyed the work of Sid and Jim (although I am prepositioned to as Jim is my brother). They were showing a number of works, including a piece called Beyond the closed door, which was an intercom through which someone can be heard pleading to be allowed inside, all the while describing their bleak surroundings of an apocalyptic scenario. It accompanied another piece, Fill in the blanks with discarded breadcrumbs, that was a vent embedded in the wall, with the sound of an arctic wind coming through the grate. These pieces worked really well together, in my opinion these works could have been a solo show within themselves.
Steve McQueen’s show at Tate Modern was very well presented. I especially liked the LED wall texts that accompanied each work, they were incredibly slick and worked well within the blacked out environment. The videos, are of course great, although I was sad to see that my favourite film of his, Deadpan, where the artist stands in front of a falling barn. It’s the work that won him the Turner Prize in 1999, so I was surprised not to see it.
So that’s all the London shows I’ve been to, although I also went to Birmingham for the day and was able to see some exhibitions then, just before everything began shutting down. The first on my list was of course IKON. Both shows on view were very earthy and nature based. The first was Judy Watson, whose work I wasn’t so into. Just so nature influenced.
The second was John Newling who, again, was very nature based. Although the one saving grace here was that he had created his own alphabet out of different leaves, which I did enjoy. Aside from that though, lots of tied together bundles of wood and various stick based sculptures. I used to love Andy Goldsworthy, but nowadays that type of work doesn’t interest me.
I then went to Eastside Projects, for a solo show of Sonia Boyce, with guest artists Anna Barham, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Harold Offeh, Flora Parrott, Luc Pheles, Alberta Whittle and work by Francis Alys, Lynn Chadwick, Lucy Harvey, Andrew Logan, Jaqueline Poncelet, Bridget Riley and Martin Smith from the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art collection. It was a fun show, although incredibly busy. The space felt a bit too community focused for me, with so many different things happening within the building and the space. I dunno, I couldn’t really connect to it.
Also at Eastside Projects was Lindsey Mendick’s solo show The Yellow Wallpaper. It was a very complicated show that brought together a lot of different, well made and considered, aspects. My description of the project probably wouldn’t do it justice, so I would recommend going to the website to read more about it - https://eastsideprojects.org/projects/the-yellow-wallpaper/
Next up was Jamie Crewe’s Love & Solidarity, which I’m not sure whether I understood.
Georgia Tucker’s Conniveo at Stryx Galley was an interesting, albeit simple show about the environment and particularly oceans being destroyed by pollution. It’s main piece was a VR work that allowed you to explore a virtual island/ocean, which had various piles of rubbish strewn around the place. It was well made, just didn’t feel like enough. Plus, the general gallery felt a little unloved and uncared for, which was a shame to see.
The last exhibition I saw before everything closed was Paulina Korobkiewicz’s Udarny trud at Centrala. It featured archival material from an abandoned textile factory alongside photographs they had taken of the building.
So that was it for exhibitions for the time being, who knows until when! I’ve been watching lots of TV and films, alongside playing some video games too. I watched a great TV show called Hunters, which focused on a group of people hunting down Nazis in 1977 New York City. It was a fun show, somewhat serious but also humorous at times. Yeah, highly enjoyable and worth a watch for Nazis being killed in various dramatic ways.
Spies in Disguise was a fun animation about a spy being turned into a pigeon. Very light and good natured, featuring a pigeon with a bow tie.
I liked Miss Americana, a documentary looking at Taylor Swift and her transformation over the years. Even though I didn’t really know much about her and her music I did enjoy it.
McMillions was a documentary series about the McDonald’s Monopoly Game being rigged in America. It was an interesting documentary, although incredibly amped up and so American. Although the story was interesting, it wasn’t THAT interesting, with some of the characters being interviewed making it seem like some incredible thing had occurred. I dunno, it just felt unnecessary at times. Is it worth watching? Maybe.
I was into Noughts + Crosses, the BBC adaptation of Malorie Blackman's novel. It’s set in a parallel world where native African people had colonised the European people, rather than the other way around, with Africans having made Europeans slaves. It takes place in present day London, where white people are seen as lesser, not allowed into universities or to be in relationships outside of their ‘kind’. It was a well made series and quite distressing at times.
One of my highlights, however, was the TV series Love Is Blind, a dating show of sorts, where single men converse with single women over a period of ten days, without seeing them physically. At the end of the ten days, in order to see them, you have to propose to marry them, which you will then do in about twenty days or so. It’s a mad concept which is truly amazing to watch. I would highly recommend it and can’t wait for season 2.
Birds of Prey was fun, Harley Quinn in a post Joker world. Yeah, it passed the time well and was fun to watch.
I thought Richard Jewell was quite bleak, a true story that sees a security guard accused of planting a bomb, simply due to circumstance and various assumptions made about him and his character. An interesting portrayal of how the press can ruin your life.
Sonic the Hedgehog was pretty much full on trash.
High Fidelity was a well presented and very well made TV show, yet another adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel of the same name. Focusing on a young woman who runs a record shop, it was a fun look into the world of a music obsessed group of people, and I especially enjoyed the episode where they visited an artists apartment.
My Neighbours the Yamadas, a 1999 film about a family in contemporary Japan, was very lovely. It was basically a number of short vignette animations, showing how this family functions in daily life. Yeah, really nice.
I found Emma. to be hilarious and incredibly over the top. A really great snapshot of 1800s England and the overdramatic-nuss of it all.
Onward was a nice and incredibly innocent animation, Pixar’s newest. A tale of two brothers and the importance of one another.
The Hunt was fun trash, far right strangers being hunted by liberal elites. Basically full on trash but a long list of celebrities, all slowly being killed off.
And the final film I watched was The Platform, which I did enjoy for how stripped back the experience was. The plot is simple, hundreds of people trapped within a vertical prison, two prisoners on each floor, and every month the floor they’re on is changed. The key element being that food is transported down the floors on a moving platform, the prisoners at the top get to pick whatever they want, whereas the people at the bottom get literally nothing. It was an enjoyable, albeit incredibly obvious, metaphor for society, and how if everyone ate their fair share no one would starve. Yeah, it was good.
Aside from films and TV I’ve also been playing some games. I played through Detroit: Become Human, which puts you in the shoes of a number of androids in a future Detroit, where basically everyone has an android helper. Throughout the game you basically start an android revolution of sorts, with your choices within the game affecting what the overall outcome is. Yeah, it was very well made and something that I’ve wanted to play for some time.
A much lighter experience has been Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled, a reboot of the 1999 game of the same name. It’s basically a racing game that’s very enjoyable to play. Nothing super serious, but that’s the beauty of video games, that there’s a game for every occasion.
Annnd that’s that I think. For the moment I’m basically staying inside, continuing to make work, worried about both mine and the worlds future. I’d like to organise another online show soon, and to continue painting and thinking about future projects. I guess we shall see what happens…