Flow My Tears
    Bob Bicknell-Knight, Curator

    A plane soars overhead, you lift your head, watching the chemtrails dissipate against the dusty red sky. It’s only condensation, apparently, or that’s what Wikipedia says. Either way, who worries about chemtrails anymore? If they wanted to infect the city they’d have done it already, and wouldn’t have thrown around the kind of coin that fuels jets to do it. Much cheaper to develop an app, hiring a small team of web developers would be far more effective. Better yet, why not set up a Kickstarter or start a GoFundMe, market it as something they need, something they can’t live without. Then who else can they blame but themselves?

    You zoom in, switch to infrared and close your eyes, logging into the apparatus of digital pathways and virtual connections that enables you to navigate past the wall. An artificial blockade, developed by them to keep you out, away from the heat of the fire and fast flowing data streams.

    Later, lying in the dust of your family home, black and white swatches infiltrate your eyelids, sulking in the midnight air, waiting for a pair of unregistered eyeballs to hover over them, activating the ad, earning revenue and a meagre amount of FiatCoin.

    Flow My Tears is an exhibition of new and previous works by several national and international artists, including Shamus Clisset, Stine Deja, Bex Ilsley, Jillian Mayer, Jonathan Monaghan, Rustan Söderling and Thomas Yeomans. The videos and moving images are predominantly digital in nature, created using animation software and 3D scanning techniques, concerning ideas surrounding the cyborg body, conspiracy theories, ideological differences and enhanced memory mechanisms. The exhibition takes its name from the 1974 novel by Philip K Dick, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. Set within a dystopian police state where a totalitarian government has complete authority, controlling its population through vapid entertainment, material reward, and 24/7 surveillance, the book is a parable about loneliness and dissatisfaction within our hyper-consumerist world.

    Shamus Clisset’s new animation I Wish I Could Talk to Ponies confronts the artists relationship to New York City and the ongoing effect that the destruction of the world trade center in 2001 has had around the world. In the years since, the very real and impactful events of 9-11 have been remixed and diluted through throw-away meme culture and conspiracy websites, abstracted beyond recognition and away from any meaningful reaction. Within the work, two birthday candles atop a birthday cake burn ferociously, while balloons endlessly scroll in the background.

    Within Stine Deja’s new video series, Hard core, soft body, you’re introduced to reimagined human forms, flesh and technology combined into hybrid beings, grotesquely beautiful visions of future prosthetics, edging ever closer to the technological singularity. The constructions make familiar sounds and subtle movements, housed in a literal ‘grey area’, referencing lab like environments and in-between spaces.

    Bex Ilsley’s series of short moving image works, Telepresences, depict the artist embodying various emotive characters and personas. The title refers to the use of virtual reality technology, whereby the user has the ability to control objects and participate in distant events, transporting themselves into different bodies and altering their characteristics, digitally escaping into the net.

    In Jillian Mayer’s series of video works, DAY OFF, we watch as an unnamed protagonist engages in a fully immersive virtual reality video game. He is completely disconnected from the world of the viewer, oblivious to the environment as well as the viewer's physical presence and gaze, trapped in the virtual world.

    Jonathan Monaghan’s Earthly Delight combines religious iconography with modern forms of neoliberal consumerism. Within the work, a computer animated golden serpent wraps itself around an organic grocery bag, slowly squeezing until a rosy red apple rises from the bag. The apple splits in half, revealing a futuristic weapon beyond comprehension, firing at the snake and protecting the produce.

    Eternal September is Rustan Söderling’s 18-minute digital odyssey, delving into the origins of the internet and the physicality of virtual networks. As the viewer you’re taken on a journey, traversing through submerged office buildings and swampy waters, accompanied by humming servers and YouTube tutorials. A short accompanying video, In The Zone, circles a lone figure in an abandoned and overgrown industrial landscape, whose face and head are adorned with various past and present objects, from cigarette butts to iPhone cables.

    The focus of Thomas Yeoman’s new video work, Trooping the Battle Ensign, focuses on an animated version of the Transgender Pride Flag, adorned with the slogan and rattle snake found on the Gadsden Flag, an early revolutionary American flag that’s recently been co-opted by the Tea Party. The flag waving is an emblem of government failure to protect rights or provide basic assurances to disenfranchised people, throughout history and during the current complicated political climate. The work imagines the reconciliation of opposing groups and the co-option of enemy signs, slogans and symbols, a strategy utilised by punk culture in the 1970s.

    Bob Bicknell-Knight is a London-based artist and curator working in installation, sculpture, video and digital media. Using found objects and tools made readily available by the Internet, as well as 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.

    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.

    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 Inside Intel at Goldsmiths, University of London, London (2018), Total Power Exchange at Galerie Manque, New York (2018), Terms and Conditions May Apply at Annka Kultys Gallery, London (2018), The Museum Has Abandoned Us at State of the Art, Berlin (2017), The Choice of a New Generation at The Muse Gallery, London (2017), I miss you, Blockbuster... at A217 Gallery, London (2017) and MozEx at Mozilla Festival, Ravensbourne, London (2016).

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