Monday, 12 March 2018


Horizon: Zero Dawn, Eloise Hawser, Ian Cheng, Gursky and Jumanji

Ah another two weeks gone, laziness is all engulfing it seems. I’m progressing ever closer to the launch of the upcoming issue, with one or two things still to sort out, but overall I’m fairly positive about the launch. I’ve sent off for a draft copy of the next issue, updated my artist website, embarked on making some new work and have started playing a new, all encompassing, video game. Let’s begin.

Starting with older work, I eventually got around to photographing my previous new piece, The oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown, with a nice and crispy camera. Here’s the result:

After talking through it more with my tutor alongside a few of my peers, I think it had a fairly positive reception, although I do want to move away from utilising plain wood for my next piece, it feels like I’ve outdone/outgrown it at this point, and using it too much may become gimmicky and overtly obvious. So yes, I may have to discard the sliced wood at some point soon.

I’m currently working on two new sculptures, kind of a progression from what I began to talk about 2 weeks ago, utilising tripods and metal objects bought for holding various sized devices. The work consists of two islands of sorts, two oddly shaped simple desk like works that utilise a bunch of the objects that I’ve produced over the past year or so, from the Bitcoin puzzle piece to the 3D printed Mario Kart shell. All of the objects are placed on these desks, made from layers of MDF, digital prints and latex, with the objects lightly embedded into the latex. The sculptures become futurist, ergonomically designed spaces for current devices and technology, made up of a drone, a coffee cup, SIM cards, puzzle pieces, 3D printed objects and one or two other things. These are visions of the now, which will become relics of the past, which the works are supposed to be I think. Relics of the now observed from the future, which the layer of latex covering the print being a sort-of essence, like a dust, covering the space, although then the objects are embedded within. Maybe the objects should have a layer of latex on them? Future dust. But yes, those are being developed. The objects are all made, I just need to bring it all together, and print the pictures of. Here's a sketchup model, I am unfortunately yet to document any work-in-progress.
I thought about what to do for the prints for some time, considering the image collages/assemblages that I’ve done for previous works, and trying to go down that path, but realising for the piece it needed to be less complex, simpler and less in your face. So after going through various options I settled on utilising some beautiful screenshots from a video game I used to play as a child; Rez. You play as a computer program, embedded within a machine that’s slowly being overrun by a virus, a virus that you slowly eradicate as the game continues. It was incredible then and still is to this day, beautiful and colourful. Anyway, this idea of infiltrating a computer, destroying the negative aspects and considering the past, I think that’s quite relevant to the work, so I went with that. These are the two prints, although they will be sliced up as the island desk spaces and ‘blobby’ rather than rectangular.

I’m thinking it would be quite nice to produce a small book of short quotes, poems, etc, of everything that I’ve been considering relating to the future, with the text used in Rez as a direct influence, as some of the quotes are incredibly beautiful. But that’s only a small thing that I’m thinking about.

Alongside this I’ve been considering new video work, and the degree show too, as I guess I should begin thinking about that now, as it is important. The best idea would be to have a fairly obvious thing, one room/space to myself, a press release, artwork on the walls and the floor, a free-standing installation, video work(s), some prints or paintings. But yeah, video work, I’ve been compiling lots of videos that feature connected devices, specifically connected work spaces and the ever-evolving internet of things. I’m not sure what it will be, but I’m working on it.

And I think that might be it for my own work, I’ve updated my website, twice this week, as the first update was okay but once I actually went back to it I realised I didn’t really like it that much. Anyway, I finally realised that no one would actually be able to sift through the amount of work on my website, the amount of text was a little much. With over 50 or so projects there was no easy way to discern what one might be compared to another. So I decided to add photographs instead of just text, boiling down my practice to aesthetics, as no one seems to care that much about concept (lol). So yeah, it’s easy to navigate (hopefully) and simple to see everything that I’ve done since first year, minus all the other crap art I made and scrubbed from the internet. Or just look back a few years on this blog, up to you – www.bobbicknell-knight.com
In isthisit? news I’ve been continuing to plan for the show, happily I’m adding Harm van den Dorpel to the lineup of artists involved with the exhibition, which is super exciting, but I’m still working out what to show for Iain Ball’s work, as his sculptures that I originally wanted to show are trapped in New York. With no budget for the show I assume it’ll end up being either a print or a video/sound piece, a shame as having them on plinths created by opening up the floors would have worked incredibly well, but with unfunded projects I guess you must adapt and change. So that will be this week’s job, then installing next week, fuck! So yes, that’s moving forward, everything else is going well, please do come if you’re in London on the 22nd - https://www.facebook.com/events/150302102309286/
The book was sent off to print this week, which is super exciting, coming to 290 pages in total, quite crazy and stupid really. It’s going to be very expensive to print, lots of my own money, which I was hoping to avoid, but I’ve already sold over 20 copies, so that makes up for it slightly! But yes, very expensive, but I think it’s worth it for something I’m proud of. I just need to find someone interested in sponsoring the issue or something similar. I don’t know… Anyway, I’ll release the PDF version after the launch on the 22nd, so if you can’t be bothered with the physical version, wait for that, but the physical is much better, so please do order a copy here - http://www.isthisitisthisit.com/issue-04
Anything else with art? Just minor things for the future, still putting together the 6 months of digital art, still waiting to hear back from the final artist who I’ve now met, which is always super important. This coming week I’m recording the accompanying podcast with Jim and Sid, which should be a fun conversation. I dunno, I think there’s a bunch of little things that are coming up but don’t feel necessary to say. Ah the final thing, a press release for the show, which is below:

‘I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that’, a statement of sorts almost ingrained into my mind from wielding an iPhone with the in-built Artificial Intelligence (AI) known as Siri for the past five years. This response, seemingly obtained by silently murmuring into your microphone, will soon become an announcement of the past, an anecdote that Millennials and early Generation Z’s will gleefully tell their screen obsessed children about through their hyper realistic virtual reality goggles, developed by Amazon and distributed via their nearest drone depot. Exaggerated encounters with early AI assistants will proliferate these virtual encounters, the augmented elderly telling of a time that saw Siri and Alexa unable to participate in any given social situation. Simultaneously the in-house AI will refill everyone’s digital glass, laugh politely at the gentle mockery of their ancestors and experience a thousand similar scenarios concurrently occurring across the globe.

A stereotypical scenario akin to this one is inevitable. The introduction of industry 4.0 has seen a revolution in autonomous production, the Internet of Things continues to evolve, intent on establishing smart homes throughout the western world and our lives continue to be shaped and quietly adjusted by unclear algorithms. Will the autonomous world of the future be a utopian paradise, where intelligent AIs and augmented beings work side by side, enabling the widespread adoption of a universal basic income, freeing the world from jobs deemed repetitive and tedious? Alternatively will we as a race eventually become irrelevant, catering to our complicated human needs whilst mechanical robots rise up, conspiring to push us into a new age of mass unemployment?

I’m still thinking about it, whether it’s way too obvious or not. I guess that will be this weeks work, I’m thinking of making it into a fold out pamphlet of sorts, or perhaps just an in half A4…

Let’s do exhibitions, yet again sorely lacking. I keep having work on Saturdays and keep not motivating myself to go and see shows during the week, which ultimately fucks me. Let’s start with GAO gallery, space that I am now inherently biased with as a friend of mine works there. They do continually do painting shows though, which is less my thing. This one was a little more interesting however, a solo show from Babette Semmer (the first from a female artist I might add), concerning various scenes from throughout London perhaps, various locations, various inhabitants. These were mostly paintings and small watercolours, which didn’t really do anything more me because of the style I guess. The press release however was the most interesting for me. It came in two parts, so the unwitting viewer may only pick up one part of the write-up, which I obviously did. At first you read this text about gentrification, about how artists play a part in that, fuelling and providing for the wealthy. This, I thought, coming from a white cube gallery space, is incredibly ironic. I then found the second part, which is written as if from an alien’s perspective, discussing how it feels to be transported into a human’s world, where gender is performed and artwork will be displayed. It felt like it was drawing parallels between how alien the art world is to the ‘real’ world, how gentrification is simultaneously seen as a reward and a curse, how everything seems to be fucked. It’s worth going for the press release I would say.
Next door was Carlos Ishikawa with Rose Salene titled All These Events Are True, But None of Them Happened, consisting of framed false newspaper clippings, events that had happened but weren’t advertised as such, alongside multiple sculptural reproductions, McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, a slice of the Oval Office and part of a McDonald’s bench. It seemed almost too on the nose when considering this ‘post-truth’ world we’re in, almost too crisp. Hmm…
Then came Eloise Hawser at Somerset House, the finalisation of a two year residency there investigating water, how it flows through the city and our bodies, mixing the city/Somerset House’s relationship with pipes and plumbing with our own bodies in a semi-scientific sense. I loved the show, made up of some incredibly beautiful sculptural works, very nice prints and a multi-screen simulation of the Thames.
Andreas Gursky at the refurbished Southbank Centre was next, which was fine, good even. You know what you’re getting with Gursky, you’re never surprised, which is fine. I’m just like, yeah? I like the prints, I like the fabricated realities that are being developed within his practice as he gets older, it would be fun to have a huge one in a beautiful modern house. It would be fun to have all these things, but in the end they’re photographs in frames probably more expensive than the photos.
Mark Dion at the Whitechapel was fine, the birds in the cage are nice, but I had seen them previously in New York in early 2016, probably wrote about it in this same blog. Of course, the birds and books are different, but does anyone actually care about that? You’re here for the birds, for the pictures, for the everything. Not that that’s a bad thing, but maybe it is? I’m not sure. It’s this collecting and displaying that is kind of fun but kind of not, best summed up by his Tate Modern project, walking and digging up parts of the shoreline of the Thames, then displaying them in a museum cabinet. Boring.
I went to a discussion with Ian Cheng, Nora Khan and Ben Vickers about Cheng’s new show at the Serpentine, which is fun. It features so many screens and various different forms of AI creatures, all named BOB (Bag of Beliefs), made up of various tangents and parts. Of course, I love the work and the idea of these digital creatures slowly growing and changing as the exhibition continues, distorting when you ‘interact’ with them through your iPhone. It does, however, when you interact with the beings, feel extremely gimmicky, holding a selfie stick with an iPhone attached, seeing your face on one of the creatures faces, changing with your fascial movements. It supposedly changes and responds to your face, but does it? It felt a little like when someone used to tell you how a machine would be able to do X, Y and Z, or when you were told that there would be millions of planets to explore in No Man’s Sky when in reality there are, but they’re all boring as fuck with no content. This felt like a lot of chat (and of course the talk was fantastic) but right now with the small team of 20 that help facilitate Cheng’s practice it feels like the goals of this project, to create a being that changes and reacts to you in real time, feel too far out of reach. On the other hand I am wondering whether you need ample time in the space, to allow the machine to interact and change to you perhaps? Maybe the AI is too advanced and clever to change drastically straight after you get in contact? I don’t know, but I still feel the technology isn’t there yet. I want more, or maybe this is more and I’ve been trained to think there would be because of all the sci-fi I watch, painting a false narrative of what the future will be. Who knows, the show is fun though, still haven’t been to Sondra Perry though…
Aaaand I think that might be it for shows, I told you, literally nothing. I’m going to try to go to shows this week, there are so many open now that I just feel so behind. How do people cope when they make art but don’t go to shows? How do they keep up to date? I guess they don’t, thus bad art?

Now films/TV and video games. I first watched the terrible People You May Know, someone who doesn’t do social media does social media and gets millions of followers from creating fake pictures. It was trash.
Derren Brown’s The Push on Netflix has gotten me back into watching old specials, it is annoyingly good and addicting. If you haven’t seen Derren Brown, you must.
I, Tonya was fantastic, incredible acting combined with a wonderfully disjointed narrative that fit so well into the storytelling aspect of the experience. Funny and bleak mixed into one film.
I really liked The Post, it reminded me of Wikileaks haha, an old version of that, and a nice anecdote to, yet again going to use this phrase, the ‘post truth’ age we’re currently living in.
Darkest Hour was fine, not really that into it but a well done portrayal of Churchill.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle on the other hand was incredible, just so funny and enjoyable, ‘on par’ with Thor Ragnarok. Instead of the original Jumanji, with the players playing a board game that affected real life, the players now play a video game, which sucks them into the game space, turning them into characters which won’t affect the real world, unless you die in the game of course. So yes, very fun, with the running joke throughout being that a teenage girl, obsessed with her phone and taking selfies is transplanted into the body of Jack Black. It’s just very funny and a good film.
The Greatest Showman was okay, incredibly uplifting of course but I just kept thinking how the performers, labelled ‘freaks’ in the film, were being used and abused by P.T. Barnum throughout the film, with no real redemption/apology occurring, or no real acknowledgment from the film itself that that was what was going on. It just felt a little like they (the filmmakers) missed a huge part of the plot, that of exploitation, and in reality they wanted to create this film to sing songs and tell a fictitious and romanticised version of how the circus came about, an industry that persecutes the animals and the performers alike. I don’t know, I wasn’t convinced.
Roman J. Israel, Esq. however was pretty great, Denzel Washington as a lawyer out of touch, learning about the new world and essentially being overwhelmed by capitalism, with a plot that made me go ‘hmm’ throughout. Clever.
That’s it for films, as I say I’ve been watching a bunch of Derren Brown, but also continuing with High Maintenance of course. I do love that show.
I’m following season 2 of Atlanta, which is fantastic, and has those little moments like in the first, little moments of absurdity which are not quite real life moments but could be, or are for other people. In the first season these became more outlandish as the show continued, ramping up and creating a distressingly hilarious experience. I’m hoping this happens with season 2 as well. If you haven’t seen season 1 I would highly recommend doing so.
Season 3 of Love was gorged on, nice, quick, easy, throwing no real punches. Nice but not great.
Ugly Delicious, a fun TV show about food, was fine, definitely not the best TV show about food out there.
Finally let’s get onto videogames, more specifically Horizon Zero Dawn, an amazing sci-fi RPG focusing on a world hundreds of years in the future, where machines have risen up and kind of dominate the world, Humans live in tribes, hunting animals and machines with very basic equipment. You play as Aloy, a newborn baby at the beginning of the game, you see her grow into a fierce young woman, eventually venturing off into the world to discover who her mother is, along the way potentially discovering why there are autonomous machines ready to kill permeating the landscape. I’m yet to finish, but for now I’m really enjoying the story and the rich world, finding out about its history whilst having fun with the gameplay, fighting (some) intense battles with huge machines and exploring the world. I do prefer more linear, narrative heavy games, especially as my time is limited, but this is a special exception. Anyway, it’s great, I’m like over a year late, but I’m glad I’m finally playing.
And that might be it, the next week will consist of picking more work up for the show, coordinating more, checking out the draft copy of the issue and ordering all the copies (fuck), finalising the press release, hopefully finishing the two sculptures I’m building, considering a poetry book of sorts, continuing with the new video piece, getting work off on Saturday so I can go to some shows, emailing people, doing the podcast, private views, cooking, eating, sleeping... I am tired.

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