Accompanying isthisit?’s launch of Issue 6, ‘Trust is the Ultimate Currency’ revisits our current contemporary crisis in journalism and the (mis)functioning of online and offline media; giving rise to the ill-famed term ‘fake news’. Isthisit? functions as both a website platform and publication series. The brainchild of curator Bob Bicknell-Knight, isthisit? explores issues surrounding modes of surveillance and digital culture with an open call for each publication.
Situated in Fitzrovia, you step into a saturated white space, ode to a clinical cross-examination intersected with the victimization of a flashing photography press. Like many contemporary exhibitions, you are welcomed by disorientating noises and unapologetic wires, which usually gives a positive affirmation that you are in the right place. Selected artists contributing towards Bicknell-Knight’s outputs are usually well versed in researching emerging technologies; as such, we have the likes of Eloise Hawser exploring CIRS Tissue Simulation and Phantom Technology and Ami Clarke showing an high-frequency trading algorithm sourcing global news feeds for ‘virtual profit’.
Standing out from the crowd, quite literally, is Thomas Yeomans’ bright led boxes situated on the floor depict a fabricated flag against a blue sky. A fictional flag or banner against this backdrop evokes the optimism of a bright future ahead, before being swiftly contradicted by a commercial slogan evocative of our current fears. The allure of dark humor draws me in, as it is not too hard to imagine a media outlet stating the colloquial headline, ‘What in Gods Flat Earth is Happening?’ Rarely do we see novel flag designs, other than from emerging rebel states who shall not be named. Flags have a resonance in our daily lives, not just representing our origins, but also our values, with an effective message (albeit rarely a creative one). Yeomans has taken a playful opportunity to capitalize on this gap. Not only does he poke fun at the current day politic and our mistrust of it but also our hopes and aspirations of the future, the creation of ideals yet to come and representation of factions yet to take shape. Yet, in this circumstance, the flags reside on the floor as opposed to freely blowing in the wind, for the time being.
As above, Charlie Godet Thomas’s wall based sculpture Go Configure fuses an inspiration of newspaper cartoon strips and impressions of an illuminated manuscript. This combination brings together differing styles of communication to portray a disjointed narrative sealed within a transparent box. I’m usually not someone that enjoys ‘text-based’ art, however, I am a sucker for nice handwriting. There is something very elegant about Godet Thomas’s works. They hint towards a collage, yet, their display lends them as prized pinned artifacts from a museum of the future. The embedded message is a poetic warning about our infatuation and reliance on technology and its systems. It’s difficult to not be romanced by this in spite of the sentiment at hand.
One given definition of trust is the acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation, something that many of us have taken for granted in the news until recent. We have had a distrust for our governance for some time now, but we relied on journalism to provide a somewhat impartial perspective in the least. Reliability on truthful communication is becoming ever more complex, ushered in by development in technology with many possessing the ability to manipulate and contort data and image for personal gain. There is a new emphasis on how to educate those new to using the www since our generation over ten years ago, but perhaps we should remain optimistic that younger generations may be more switched on to these evolving issues, staying ahead of the game. A diminished trust has taken place within our modes of communication at every level, to the point where we begin to question, at what price? Bicknell-Knight has aptly titled this publication to observe a contradiction in such an exchange. Trust should not be monetized but it remains ultimate currency.
Harlesden High Street is a gallery on 32 Newman Street, Fitzrovia hosting a programme of contemporary exhibitions and events with an emphasis on outsider art and self-taught artists.
Trust is the Ultimate Currency finishes on 13th April 2019.