Photo credits / info
Ground Zero Inc. 24 Hour Service 1980
Media: diorama, audio, mail-art
Tilson visited New York for the first time and came back with suitcases full of rubbish found on the city streets and dumpsters. He also made recordings of local New York radio stations and TV, including a long documentary on the effects of a nuclear attack on New York. An advantage of making small collages is that potential subject matter and materials available are huge - books, magazines, printed ephemera and rubbish - offering all aspects of human life and history. When attempting to make larger works this repository vanishes. At first Tilson tried to use his figurative painting background to make vast paintings that had a collage appearance. Visiting New York for the first time in 1980 solved the scale problem and focused his thoughts. He stayed with Dick and Betsy Smith downtown on Warren Street near the World Trade Centre when it was still a windswept wasteland of industrial buildings, desolate and empty. He fell in love with the city. Trying to convey his urban experience was becoming central to what Tilson wanted his art to reflect. Back in the studio his response to New York was to build a multi-media enviornment- noisy and large, made out of cardboard and wood, creating a large shop front reminiscent to the graffiti covered metal facades he’d found near the World Trade Centre. Tilson was an active member of CND at the time and had recorded a radio documentary on the effects of a nuclear strike on New York – so Ground Zero became the name of the shop front. The political nature of the work was also made by a small tape recorder in the shape of Ronald Regan’s head – which spouted absurd comments by Regan every few minutes. Two loudspeakers housed in the façade played an additional soundtrack - radio fragments of adverts, jingles, nuclear documentary and background drum and synth track made by John Grimaldi and Tilson.
The piece was exhibited at the Royal College of Art Second Year Painting Exhibition, alongside a display case of artists books Jake had been making: 8 Views of Paris, The V Agents, Exposure, Cipher magazine.

Ground Zero Inc. 24 Hour Service 1980
mixed media, lights, two audio cassette players.
280 x 280 x 150 cm

The Immigrant
Mixed media, wooden stand.
Nineteen separate envelopes made up this portable person that crossed international borders by airmail. It was mailed in pieces to New York - and then sent back for the exhibition.
Sent to Susan Shopmaker in New York

Track one: Ronald Reagan television speeches. One spoken phrase was heard every five minutes from a small tape recorder in the shape of Reagans’ head.
Track two: Hidden speakers. Twenty minutes of collaged New York radio fragments with drum machine and synthesised sounds by John Grimaldi and Jake Tilson. The radio material included music, news, adverts and a scientific report on the effects of a nuclear attack on New York.

William Burroughs often talked about the prophetic quality of collage through unexpected juxtapositions of image and text. Although “Ground Zero Inc” was borne out of the prevalent nuclear war paranoia in 1980 it has a different reading since the events of 9-11.

1980 The Royal College of Art Painting exhibition.

Evening Standard, London.
Artist/Photocopier, Nicola Gooch, South Western Star London.
Artist Photocopier, Peter Holt, Evening Standard Ad Lib July 6.

1997 Investigations in Cities, MIDE.