A Few Words With Bob

I invited Bob to come to show his works in our space Salon 75 (Peter Bangs vej 75) half a year ago. We spoke on Instagram, as you do nowadays, and agreed that it would be interesting to present a new body of work in the space. The profile of Salon 75 has always sought to be diverse and experimental, and the works of Bob appealed to me as being multimedia and driven by a speculative pseudo fictitious narrative that fits perfectly in the small 4 by 4-meter room.
Young as he is, Bob still stands strong in his way of composing a show and creating a melancholic atmosphere around his odd and surreal objects and pictures. With that in mind, his critiques of a futuristic vision of culture are important in these times of our rapidly changing globalized society, something that is both seen within the fields of technology and the digitalized scene of contemporary art.

During the period of installing the exhibition by and with Bob Bicknell-Knight, we had some great talks about his practice and I thought that it would be suited to ask him some questions again for the internet, in which he operates around as a topic, to read.

- Theodor Præst Nymark Jensen

Theodor Nymark: How do you manage to balance between the different levels of understanding within your works. Are you creating the pieces with an intent to attach the description of the work, for people to grasp the concept fully and as a whole? Or do you open up the hermetics and maybe esoteric aspect, having the abstraction of the concept to be experienced solely through the obvious symbols and narrators?

Bob Bicknell-Knight: The majority of my work does begin with an initial concept, before I start making a sculpture or editing a video, although that original idea can distort and change during the making process, which it often does. I do like my work to be understandable and have a severe dislike of work that’s solely abstract or conceptual, so at times the ideas that I’m generating can be a reaction to that type of artwork. I think the works on show for the exhibition at Salon 75 are on the more overt end of the scale, depicting Mark Zuckerberg as a trophy hunter. I think, at this point, Zuckerberg is a very familiar face, on the news and everywhere you look on the internet. I think (hope) that most people who use Facebook know who he is. That idea, combined with the activity of trophy hunting (hunting animals for sport and posing with their corpses) makes the work, at least at a base level, simple to understand. Of course, there’s research involved in the work and more to it than a humorous image, as I like to make work that’s accessible on a number of levels, but I think that initial draw is important. That’s how you usually get people involved in a piece, the initial aesthetic. That’s how I’m normally drawn in anywhere, aside from if the artist is famous and you already know their work.

“I don’t think artists have to change their medium in order to keep up with consumer culture.”

TN: Dealing with the notion of craftsmanship in the arts in the 21st Century. How do you position yourself as an artist working with found material, 3D printing, digital manipulation etc. How do we in these times, navigate in the field of arts, with this particular aspect in mind, if the consumer culture dictates the fast evolving accessibility? Should we as artists follow that exact same pace or should we negotiate on this conservative term?

BBK: I don’t think artists have to change their medium in order to keep up with consumer culture. It does dictate the accessibility of these new mediums, like 3D printing, which you can now do in your own home due to the reduced cost of the machines, but I don’t think artists are going to stop painting anytime soon just because a machine can do the same thing. Consumer culture drives the creation of new things for us, as consumers, to consume. As artists we are free to utilise these new tools and technologies, but not necessarily for their intended purpose. I think it’s a rarity for consumer culture to evolve because of what an artist wants or needs. My biggest problem with artists using these new technologies is the fetishization of the tech, only using 3D printing, VR, etc because they can, rather than because it makes sense to do so and is in line with the concept of the work.

TN: As an artist working with actual personas in the narratives that you construct, do you ever face any moral or ethical complications?

BBK: I think this is the first time that I’ve made a whole body of work concerning one specific person. From my point of view, I think Zuckerberg has distorted the world and society as a whole, and not necessarily for the better, making him an incredibly problematic and disturbing person who wields a huge amount of power. So, to answer your question, I’m not worried about portraying him in this way, as a trophy hunter who hunts and kills animals for sport, as I believe that he’s done far worse, both in public and private situations.

TN: Like the concept of craftsmanship, how do you deal with the idea of working as a multimedia artist, not practicing any particular medium, and thereby not having a certain go to material dictating the evolvement of your general body of work?

“I think and hope that my work is directed at the present or the future, but definitely not the past.”

BBK: For me it’s a fantastic way to work, focusing on concept rather than any specific medium. Being a multimedia artist allows me to physically make anything for any situation, and not to be constricted to any particular material. As I said before, allowing the idea to come first is quite important within my practice, so being open to working in any medium suits my way of working well. It’s also great in relation to exhibition opportunities, as I have a work for every medium. So, if I’m in a show in America I can just show a video, for example, or if they have a bigger budget I could send a sculpture. I like to be adaptable and able to produce work for any situation that may present itself.

TN: How do you position yourself in the history of art as a contemporary artist? Are you concerned with your work being directed towards, and not backwards, futuristic exploration?

BBK: I think and hope that my work is directed at the present or the future, but definitely not the past. I think that’s something I’m less concerned with, connecting my work to the history of art making, etc. I’m more interested in the now, and what’s happening in this moment. Obviously that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate art, made in the past but also about the past, but for me and my work it’s not something I am particularly concerned with at the moment.

TN: Okay Bob, last question for now. Maybe it is a bit tricky. How would you describe the tendencies of the young British art scene in these days, and is there actually any tendencies which isn’t just as global as national?

BBK: I don’t really know, and am probably not the best person to ask! Everything seems to be broken in the UK at the moment, from Brexit and racist politicians to tuition fees increasing, making it more and more difficult to gain a college education. I think everything becoming fragmented isn’t just happening in the UK. The world also seems to be slowly collapsing. In terms of art, who knows, that’s something I’m less concerned about at the moment!