Emma Elizabeth Tillman Disco Ball Soul

‘There is another world, but it is inside this one.’

Paul Éluard

Kingman, 2008 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman FAD magazine
Kingman, 2008 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman

Disco Ball Soul is the debut solo exhibition of American artist Emma Elizabeth Tillman. The show is comprised of more than 90 small-scale collages created over a ten-year period. The collages are constructed from photographs taken by Tillman and feature fragments from her personal diaries written in ink onto masking tape. The presentation also includes fourteen large-scale photographs.

Tillman began this body of work in 2007 whilst visiting her then-boyfriend Rick, who lived in a crumbling adobe house in the majestic desolation of the Arizona desert. When the couple temporarily moved to France, the camera and the diary came along, aiding Tillman in her quest to capture time and gain repeated access to the past.

Josh on Mulholland Drive, October, 2011 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman FAD magazine
Josh on Mulholland Drive, October, 2011 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman

Living in a cottage in rural Brittany, with no running water or electricity and only a fireplace for heat, she meticulously recorded her experiences on camera and in her diaries. From this period, Tillman’s recollections include stealing potatoes and beetroot from the local fields, scavenging for firewood on the beach and attempting to maintain her then-relationship amidst the challenges of language, isolation, weather and limited financial resources. From Arizona and France came a road trip to Spain in an ailing Peugeot coupe and later a solo trip to Iceland.

© Emma Elizabeth Tillman FAD magazine
In the bath at the Chiltern Firehouse, February 2nd 2016 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman

With each entry in her diary, Tillman was able to save the memory, to mark the passing of time and make sense of her thoughts. By living each day twice, first through its experience and then by photographing and writing it down, Tillman sought to create her own world – one that varied from the one outside her mind. The title of the exhibition, Disco Ball Soul, refers to Tillman’s ability to hide herself behind the images, allowing the stories and experiences she depicts to be reflected outwards.

Emma Elizabeth Tillman FAD magazine
At home in the Hollywood Hills, May 2016 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman

Tillman’s creative output intensified in 2011 when she met her husband, Josh. From nearly their first meeting she brought her camera and began documenting their life together as it took shape. From early days at his house in Los Angeles, mushroom trips in the Joshua Tree desert and across the world from Norway to Mexico, Tillman has traveled with Josh and recorded nearly every day the couple has spent together since.
The need to arrest time and hold it still is a key thread throughout Tillman’s work. Memory and mystery play an important role, allowing the moment fixed in film to resonate far beyond its initial occurrence. For Tillman, the creation of the work itself – shooting on film, writing a diary by hand, printing photographs and making collages on paper – each is an act of defiance of convenience and ease. The works are labour intensive and the results are not immediate; they unfurl only gradually to the viewer, inviting them to immerse themselves inside Tillman’s world.



200 limited-edition signed copies of Disco Ball Soul published by Dilettante Paper will be available for purchase at the gallery.

46 Ashfield Street, London, E1 2AJ gallery46.co.uk
@emmaelizabethtillman

Emma Elizabeth Tillman FAD magazine
The Joshua Tree Inn, December 2011, © Emma Elizabeth Tillman

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About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the founder and editor of FAD magazine, a curation of the world’s most interesting culture, and Creative Director of FAD Agency, a digital creative agency: www.fad.agency