Langlands & Bell - Internet Giants: Masters of the Universe

21 March - 10 June

Ikon presents an exhibition of new work by British artists Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell, marking the 40th year of their artistic partnership. Ben Langlands (born 1955) and Nikki Bell (born 1959) met while studying Fine Art at Middlesex Polytechnic, London, and have worked collaboratively since 1978.

Featuring the new iconic architecture of the global technology companies such as Apple, Facebook, Alibaba and Google, the exhibition includes a new series of relief sculptures, installations, digital animations and portraits that explore the increasingly profound influence these huge companies have on our lives in the age of Big Data’.

Nearly all of our art explores human social and cultural relationships, from the personal to the political, through architecture and the coded structures of communication and exchange that surround us. We see architecture as the most tangible and enduring record of the way we live. The internet giants continue to grow exponentially, becoming ever more powerful by the day, and exercising an increasingly profound influence over our lives. They are reshaping the cultures, politics and economies of societies all over the world comprehensively.”

At first sight the futuristic appearances of the new headquarters of the internet giants characterise the digital age: flagships for voyages of discovery in virtual worlds, whose campuses seamlessly translated from computer screens convey a complexity of attitudes and values in keeping with a brave new world. Yet the designs often rely for their impact and power on ancient typologies. For example, will the new Apple Headquarters in California designed by Norman Foster - a vast circular building nicknamed “The Spaceship” with a circumference of one mile - rival the Colosseum or Stonehenge?

The artist-duo often work from plans and architectural drawings they research online – including buildings that are yet to be completed. A new Ikon commission, Google (Charleston East) (2018) is a huge model of Google’s new global HQ under construction at Mountain View in California. In some senses Langlands & Bell’s artistic practice resembles the extreme neoclassicism of revolutionary French architects, such as Étienne-Louise Boullée and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, less concerned with the actuality of bricks and mortar than with the expression of ideas.

Langlands & Bell explain:

As with the cathedrals of the middle ages, the baroque palaces and gardens of the enlightenment, and the factories and railway stations of the industrial revolution, one of the things we are exploring is whether the new architecture of the internet giants is era defining – the architecture of the 21st Century."

A monumental new wall painting, Your Thoughts Construct Patterns Like Scaffolding In Your Mind (2018), is based on a quote by Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, and is produced in collaboration with Birmingham-based street artist Newso.

The exhibition also includes a series of portraits of the Internet Giants: founders and CEOs including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin and Steve Jobs appearing as religious icons for the digital age accompanied by their own words: “I’m trying to make the world a more open place” (Mark Zuckerberg).

The exhibition is accompanied by a new signed artist’s print, Apple, Sunny Vale, 2018 in a limited edition of 40, priced £400 and a fully illustrated catalogue, with an essay by architectural historian and critic Professor Anthony Vidler and an interview with the artists by curator and art historian Dr Hans-Michael Herzog.

The exhibition is supported by Glenn Howells Architects.

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