In 2023, Monash University Museum of Art / MUMA is proud to present the first major exhibition of the work of Paul Knight in Australia. Co-commissioned by MUMA and UNSW Galleries, Sydney where the exhibition will tour in 2024, Paul Knight: L’ombre de ton ombre presents new and recent photographic, sculptural and machine learning works that engage the artist’s relationship with his partner as an index of time, invoking the intimate present alongside the deep past and near future.
Knight’s ongoing photographic project, Chamber Music, records the life he shares with his partner Peter. Since they met in 2009, the series has accumulated glimpses into the domestic space of their relationship, with its images created through varying degrees of pre-meditation and chance; often the camera timer is set so that it simply captures what it sees. Printed in a range of scales, the exhibition at MUMA brings together several works from this series in the Monash University Collection along with more recent additions.
While the artist’s relationship provides the material for Chamber Music, Knight’s hand-loomed bedsheets weave other stories into their fabric. Pursuing research into various measures of time, both scientific and narrative, Knight is fascinated by the hypothesis concerning the gravitational influence of a binary star system that triggered periodic meteor impacts on Earth and caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and rise of mammals. Geologically this event is recorded in the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary as taking place sixty-five million years ago and Knight takes comfort in humanity being simply another subsequent organisation of matter occupying only a slim chapter of this deep geological time. His textile works reference, through their combination of minimal colour and abstract compositions, the atmosphere of a binary star system and the conceptually and physically intimate measure between two bodies.
Alongside these photographic works and textile installations, Knight’s work Naked Souls, co-commissioned by MUMA, UNSW Galleries and Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts engages machine learning technology to unfold a conversation between two chatbots in the gallery. Trained with a pre-existing archive consisting of every text message sent between the artist and his partner Peter in the first few years of their relationship, visitors will witness the bots communicating with each other for the duration of the exhibition – their dialogue evolving from the raw material of banal ‘everyday’ exchanges to the intensity of a forming relationship with its hunger for real physical contact. As Knight says, ‘perhaps the most complex and entangled of all human processing and response is the data generated by human love’.