Jake Tilson Studio textsbiographicalbibliography
The Seap of Chaos JAKE TILSON interviewed by ADAM LEVY for WORLD ART magazine Jake Tilson's work takes high-impact samples from the urban landscape and rigorously distils it through a distinctive and highly attuned sensibility. The juxtapositions of modern day life - concrete, electronic information, the dented and distressed inner cores of our global cities are filtered through a vision that highlights what most of us normally ignore. He is concerned with "the truth of the vernacular"; those individualising marks on that landscape that have survived the sweeping - or seeping - of time. His art, in other words, traces the descent into the present of the past. Like a true world traveller, his work interconnects and joins what is normally kept separate: It's genre defining. His work crosses the divides between the disciplines of painting and photography, sculpture and typography, magazine publishing and film making. He likes to appropriate the technology of a particular medium and use it for new ends.
Your work strikes me as both extremely diverse - books, dioramas and films are some of the things you do - but it also seems deeply united, visually and thematically, by a close attention to the particular
Yes, if I was a scientist I'd be working with sub-particles in my research of cities, so on a molecular level this could mean telephone booths, restaurant toilets, plates of food, signage, street architecture and so on. One has to be wary of being swayed by nostalgia or sentimentality, they don't interest me at all, but I'm slowly unearthing basic aspects of the city. I'm also interested in the disruption and mutation of a given format, like booth structures in streets.
You use the format of the series in your most recent work. What is it about the repetition of objects that intrigues you ? I am interested in the differences of similar objects and spaces. It's curious what happens to restaurant toilets, I'm drawn to their utilitarian and haphazard architecture. People seem more aware of architectural rules elsewhere but toilets seem unplanned and impromtu. Human interference becomes visible.
It sounds like you're engaged in a battle against homogeneity - how the everyday proves to be more telling than the highly uniform. It's like language. Architecture can show a visible extension of differences in language. Cultural diversity ergonomically expressed. That's why a ticket stub here is different to one made in New York or Tokyo even if produced on a computer. The visual ergonomics people require will vary, their general needs and how they react to information is different. The same can be said of objects.
So even though people aren't overtly in the work, is it their marks and traces that compels you ? Yes, absolutely. That's what makes these objects full of life. It is the difference humans make. They are there by implication.
What are the other kind of vestiges that interest you ? Traces left by cars; oil stains, worn tarmac, debris. Particularly in the territory that falls between vehicle and pedestrian, unplanned or abandoned areas. From this narrow road side strip I collected fragments of audio tape that became part of the Found Sounds audio CD in Atlas 4. Somewhere like India these non-spaces are heavily populated and put to use. In India you are physically aware of the earth, the dirt in the middle of a city is next to you, on you, the city is built on dust.
You're implying that there is meaning to the oil stains left by cars and discarded bits of audio tape; they're the remains of a truth we normally don't see. It unlocks something
Atlas 4 strikes me as being full of the notes and drawings that people - a composer or a mathematician to use two examples from the magazine - use in the daily working life but cast off as being marginal. Yes. The sub-title of Atlas 4 is Beyond Drawing, Notes from Working Environments. I think it deals with what some people wouldn't consider to be drawings at all. What interests me is the visual debris left by various professional people at work, unaware they have produced drawings. I tried to extend this idea into the Found Drawings section by asking people from different countries to look for drawings left in public spaces.
So it is more than ephemera? Yes, definitely
al It's a curious thing for people who haven't encountered ATLAS before. It's a magazine that blurs the form of a magazine. The blueprint of what makes a magazine is odd. Perhaps its the size, price, where you bought it from, does it have advertising, contributors ? People often suggest I charge £30 a copy.
But then it wouldn't be a magazine anymore. Precisely. Its point-of-sale value changes its character and has a great deal of influence on how people perceive it initially. The re-sell price is often high, auctions, etc., that happens later. A viewer's first contact with a magazine is a light approach. There's no sense of foreboding or fear of being put down or preached at.
But it is deeply challenging. It's sort of subversive in that way. Yes, if it succeeds.
People pick it up and look at it and they're confused, they think they know what it is, and then they don't - It's non-linear! It blurs distinctions and people's preconceptions. But being a magazine helps it communicate in an open minded way. There are no prescriptive pieces of text on how to decode it, there is no right way to use Atlas. I almost commissioned an introduction for no.4. For a while I regretted not including it but I feel it was the right decision. I give some clues, quotes and a sub-title, any more and you would have to fill the whole magazine full of words, that's a different concept. Also, one forgets that there will be comment and critique, reviews get written, people talk about it, the publication isn't seen in isolation. These factors affect your experience as much as the magazine itself. Everyone will have a different route in.
al What about your film work ? It strikes me that you are using film and video in a very different way than most people do. Your film MACRO MEALS is a good example - It's the equivalent of not accepting A4 as the standard piece of paper. You're not accepting the A4 equivalent of what the film form It has taken me a long time to put aside a complete childhood of watching films and television to be able to use the medium myself. I spent a lot of time videoing for no apparent reason being inquisitive about how still images react to a moving camera and how moving images react to a still camera. Trying to pin down the unique space you are working with. A vehicle for ideas. When using serial imagery in a book, film or flat on a wall, the accumulation of those images is different when they assemble in your mind. Its alters again when you leave the gallery, put down the book or turn off the video .
What is it about sequence that is so captivating? The sequence of pages in a book or the sequence of images in a film? Possibly organisation, trying to make sense out of what we perceive as chaos. Travelling in India clarified many things in my mind including the suspicion that there is no secret order to the world.
We haven't discussed travel. It seems crucial to your work. I don't know if travel is just a mechanism for achieving a position, say of juggling. You could be in a crowded restaurant or street, take a photograph and not think about it for five years. I think you have to be alert and slightly out of control. It's also like feeding. You gain perspective.
Why does your work encompass so many different media ? Most of the media I work with now were part of my make up when I was very young. From the outside perhaps it looks like a lot of disparate approaches but I don't see them conflicting.
They're all parts of a whole? Yes, there's a Dennis Potter quote about artists or writers ploughing the same field, each time you plough you unearth something unexpected, but it's the same field. I think that plot of land is decided fairly early on.
Some people think that every persons art is a portrait of themselves. Or at least a portrait of their life. There are so many distractions from what you think you should really be doing. But that's often where your real subject material lies. It may seem trivial at first.
A lot of your work seems to be about taking formal methods and available technologies, turning them inside out and making them more fluid. I am thinking of you book THE TERMINATOR LINE, and the film MACRO MEALS, the dioramas. It seems to be about opening things up. You have to allow uncertainty into art. It's that little seep of chaos that creeps in, you have to be ready for it, react to it and let it sit there.
London - January 1994