Disco Ball Soul: Nine Minutes With Emma Elizabeth Tillman

GALLERY 46 has announced the debut solo exhibition of American artist Emma Elizabeth Tillman.

Entitled Disco Ball Soul, 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.

Emma, give us insight into the central ethos of Disco Ball Soul?

Disco Ball Soul is a collection of memories from the last 10 years of my life. It begins in 2008 when I was living in rural France, and ends in late 2016 on a trip to Europe. The space in between documents my life; the start of my relationship with my husband, landscapes and travel, as well as rooms both home and abroad.

What is the meaning of the title?

My husband once told me I was born with a disco ball soul, which I thought was a very beautiful expression of something I didn’t know about myself. As an artist, when someone gives you that kind of insight into your process you must immortalise it.

The exhibition is extremely personal – did you have any doubts about exposing your life to the public gaze?

I didn’t use to think twice about it, but now I do take pause. I feel very vulnerable at times and wonder if it’s worth it, especially when I receive unwanted attention. However, I’ve been creating very personal work for so long I don’t know what else I would do!

What are your favourite means of creation?

I like to tell stories. Whatever form the work takes; whether writing in my diary, taking photographs, or writing for film, I want to tell a good story. It is my driving force, and I get the most excited when I feel like I am doing that well.

What have been your most memorable moments of your journey towards this moment?

All the collages from this collection (of photographs and diary entries) give me access to a memory; and each one feels particular and special. That being said, the photographs of France in 2008 have a special magic, as they point to the start of a creative interest in my own life.

Do you feel able to disconnect yourself from the work in any way, or is it the personal aspect that inspires you?

It is absolutely the latter. It’s about holding onto something I’ve lost. I’ll never get those days, those rooms, those people back in the same way and some of them not at all. I think it is the inability to let go that allows me, or rather forces me to keep working this way.

Who are your cultural influences?

Luis Barragán for his dedication to mystery, Diamanda Galas for finding so much beauty in the dark corners of humanity, John Lurie for humor and absurdity despite pain and sadness, Tony Gatlif for elevating buried cultures and connecting his audience to their way of life.

What are your favourite works in the show?

I would have to say the landscapes, for what is hidden in them or just beyond the frame.

What message would you like people to take away from Disco Ball Soul?

No message, just happy for someone to wander into the show or a bookstore, take a look, and like what they see.

What are you working on next?

I wrote a new film featuring a love triangle set in France and Italy with Joséphine de La Baume in the leading role. The script is being translated into French right now and I could not be more excited about it!

Emma Elizabeth Tillman

Disco Ball Soul

Gallery 46

11 – 30 August 2017

IMAGE: In the bath at the Chiltern Firehouse, February 2016 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman, by courtesy of the artist

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