A Net of Eels, Jake Tilson &
Kyoichi Tsuzuki
MEDIA: too many to list.
A collaboration between Tilson and Tsuzuki, 'A Net of Eels' merges mutual concerns within the artists' respective practices spanning publishing, cultural commentary, design and travel, whilst reflecting their almost obsessive, inquisitive documentary approach to the places they visit, resulting in the creation of diverse works that are at once incisive and accessible. Two artists, two countries, two oceans - brought together by the culinary history of eels. In Japan, nowhere is more than 93 miles from the coast, in Britain it's 70 miles or less. But these two islands have a completely different attitude towards seafood and eels. Nearby Jake Tilson's studio in Peckham is one of the few remaining eel and pie shops in London - Manzes. Kyoichi Tsuzuki lives in a country who celebrate a national eel day and consume 50% of the world's eel catch. The project combines Tilson's highly personal and eclectic approach to his subject (as seen in his celebrated narrative cookbook A Tale of 12 Kitchens, 2006) with Tzusuki's more anthropological observations (evident in his popular photographic publications Roadside Japan, 1996 and Tokyo Style, 1993).

Jake Tilson

Jake Tilson is an artist, graphic designer, publisher and author working in London. A pioneer of early website design and an active sound-recordist, Tilson also founded 'Atlas' magazine in 1984 and the award winning website 'The Cooker' in 1994. His cookbook, 'A Tale of 12 Kitchens', published in 2006, won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award and was shortlisted for both the Andre Simon Food & Drink Award and the Glenfiddich Food & Drink Award. Rooted in everyday culture and a pervading sense of place, Tilson's practice often focuses on the unremarkable whilst purposefully avoiding any sense of spectacle. His work celebrates the survival of the particular or the distinct in the face of the generic.

Kyoichi Tsuzuki

Journalist and photographer, Kyoichi Tsuzuki is best known for his ability to hold up a mirror to Japanese popular culture in a way that is insightful, humorous and often provocative. Having produced over 150 publications and exhibited extensively internationally, Tsuzuki's work has rarely been seen in the UK, his first solo photography exhibitions were presented at The Photographers' Gallery and White Cube, London, in 2003.

Film and Video Umbrella
is the UK's leading agency for the commissioning and production of artists' film and video work. For over twenty years the organisation has presented a consistently ambitious and engaging programme of contemporary moving image commissions, delivered in collaboration with galleries and venues across England. Major new commissions of the past decade have included projects by Tacita Dean, Dryden Goodwin, Isaac Julien, Mark Leckey, Gillian Wearing and Jane & Louise Wilson. FVU is funded by Arts Council England.

Exhibition dates:
9-July to 23-August 2009
Wapping Hydraulic Power Station,
Wapping Wall,
London, E1W 3SG.

Exhibition dates: Ely
29-August to 4-October 2009

Cambridgeshire CB7 4AU

Visually the exhibition is just as enthralling. Tilson's highly personal and eclectic approach contrasts with Tsuzuki's more anthropological observations to create a fascinating overview of the eel - a delicious and unexpected feast for the senses.

Emma Gritt - Blueprint

To explore the migratory patterns of eels, their life-cycle and their culinary fate I consulted cookbooks, fishing guides and encyclopedias of marine biology. However to discover how deep eels have permeated the culture of Japan and the UK I widened my search to collecting and buying artifacts. Eel spears, fishing traps, comics, food, toys, postcards, fish market rubbish, gastronomic memorabilia, postage stamps and a stuffed eel. These objects became the work Eels, A Natural History, and were extended using hardware bought in Japan from a trip made in 1994.

A research trip to Kyoto unearthed a vernacular architectural style concerning eels. Due to a tax imposed on the width of a property, merchants' houses, machiya, became narrow and extremely long - like an eel. Some of these buildings are unflatteringly called unagi no-nedoko, eel's bed or eel's nest. I invented a Kyoto based architectural firm called Atelier Biwa to develop models, three-dimensional computer models and drawings of eel houses, with the title Architectural Fiction - unagi no-nedoko. Through these fictional architects I was able to show a practice who had started business renovating old Kyoto eel houses in the 1980s. The firm changed its corporate identity in 2006, attempting to gain work in Tokyo, including an eel restaurant called Kabayaki West on an eel-house sized plot.

A further exploration of this theme became a series of hanging photographic works, Unagi no-nedoko.
Over a three year period I took thousands of photographs in London, Ely and Japan. Two hundred of these divergent views of eels make up the work Conveyor Belt Sushi. Culture, cooking and commerce. From ocean to marketplace to plate.

Making audio recordings of cities has been a practice of mine since the 1990s. A soundscape of fish markets and riverbanks makes up the audio work A Net of Eels: Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, Great Ouse River in the historic city of Ely in Cambridgeshire, Pelican Stairs in Wapping on the River Thames, the market hall at Billingsgate Fish Market in London.
In The Wapping Project restaurant area is a screen based work showing the facades of traditional eel and pie shops in London and unagi restaurants from Tokyo and Kyoto, Market Forces.
Two cloth banners in the restaurant display traditional eel recipes using two typefaces I designed. One font is derived from the shape of Atlantic eels, the other is based on the object of their capture - eel spears. As part of the table place settings I have printed a bind-it-yourself-book, an eel type-specimen book, and a build-it-yourself paper model of an eel house.

Finally to add to the cultural mix of objects I created a set of eel related collectable Trading Cards, like bubble gum or cigarette cards. And as found in all Japanese museums and public spaces there is a commemorative rubber stamp for visitors to use.

Kyoichi Tsuzuki exhibited
nine large-scale photographic works.
Giant Eel, Lake Ikeda, Kagoshima.
Not far from the seaside hot springs of Ibusuki is Kyushu's largest crater lake, Lake Ikeda. Famous for "Issy", the mysterious giant creature, this "Japan's Loch Ness" is also known as a place for giant eels. Sometimes over 2-meter lenght, 50cm diameter, 15kg weight, it is a registered protected species. You can find several small huts with big water tanks and giant eels, on the lakeside.
photographed in 1995.

Marine Art Gallery, Obama town, Nagasaki.
Near the famous Unzen mountain hot springs area, small seaside town Obama also has around 30 hot spring ryokan (Japanese style inn). On the mainroad, you can find a signpost says"Japan's only one! This is the everyone-is-talkin' Unagi Art!". Looks like an ordinary roadside cafe, it is a part cafeteria, part art gallery for "Unagi Art", tableau using dyed eel skin.

Hikokura Kkuzo Bosatsu: Eel Temple, Misato, Saitama.
In rural towns and villages, there were tradition/folklore that Eel is incarnation of Kokuzo Bosatsu (Akasagarbha--the Bodhisattva of Space). People who believed Kokuzo Bosatsu didn't eat eels. It is said that most of those areas are near rivers and were hit by floods frequently. Around Hikokura town area of Misato, on the edge of greater Tokyo metropolitan district, there is one folklore-- In one Autumn, it rained hard several days and the river started to flood. In the river, there were many children and elderly person floating in the rapid stream. They looked like hanging on some kind of log, but it actually was a huge group of eels. Because eels saved their lives, village folks never eat eels after that.