Dear Mr. Zuckerberg (2018-ongoing)
sculpture; digital print, paper, wood, paint, nails, pencil
animation, music video, video
For two years, London-based artist Jeremy Hutchison has been corresponding with Mark Zuckerberg. Via his own Instagram account, Hutchison’s messages to the tech billionaire cover everything from geo-politics to climate change, data privacy to Facebook’s trial in US congress. Some letters chart more personal territory, keeping the tycoon abreast of domestic trivia and absurd reflections from the bathtub.
Hutchison began writing to Zuckerberg in early 2019 - in response to his friend joking that he physically resembled the Facebook founder. “I started to realise how much we had in common. Two white guys, nudging middle age, juggling work and family life. I wanted to address him as an equal.
“During the lockdown, the letters have acquired a new dimension. They’ve become a vehicle to articulate our shared experience, quarantined in our white privilege, watching economies tank, governments lurch towards fascism, and race relations explode across the streets.”
But the underlying theme of these letters is the labour contract: the one that Facebook and Instagram depend on. Given that Zuckerberg generates revenue from his users’ online labour, Hutchison’s correspondence offers a wry acknowledgement of the unspoken servitude that connects him to the tech billionaire: “If I’m going to work for Mr Zuckerberg”, Hutchison says, “I should probably report to him.”
The artist’s four year-old daughter is up to speed with all this. “Has Zuck written back yet?” she asks. He admits that he hasn’t. “But perhaps this video will get on his radar. It’s worth a try.”
The artwork’s absurd facade belies a serious political intent, as
Hutchison explains: “I’m very interested in the double-bind between oppression and resistance: If social media is an instrument of labour exploitation, can it be weaponised against itself? Can Facebook and Instagram offer users a means of insurrection against surveillance capitalism? I don’t know. These feel like big claims for a one-way correspondence. But there’s one thing I know. It’s 2020: we mustn’t stop sharing.”