Wavepool – To start, why are you interested in the landscape?
Tyler Los Jones – I’m interested in the relationships we have with the entities we are trying to describe when we talk about nature or wilderness. Specifically I’ve been focusing on the role of photography in translating/mistranslating these complex systems into representations of landscape. In public discourse surrounding our current ecological crisis, we claim to be in the process of becoming more aware of our (uncomfortable) connectedness to other beings. Yet in spite of this new-found connectedness, we continue to produce images of dramatic disconnection. In my home province of Alberta we have these incredible mountain parks where millions of visitors come each year to visit a pristine, untouched wilderness. The images we see in brochures and blogs compel us to flock to the parks where we are encouraged to reproduce these images ourselves. This stream of photographs has been flowing constantly since the construction of the parks over a hundred years ago and has created a broader cult of expectation that the ecosystem be as static as the images we are so familiar with. In this cycle, the photograph is a tool used to produce and fulfill our expectations of environments.
I came to think about the assumptions I was performing as a photo-taking-tourist when I began producing works based on local ecology a few years ago. Since that time I’ve been on this slow and steady walk backwards out of the problematic beliefs about landscape I had inherited. I love the mountains, but I came to realize that the industries which helped facilitate and encourage my affections are deeply implicated in some of the most destructive attitudes concerning these places. I often think that Alberta is the perfect place to think through this kind of implication. Not because it doesn’t exist in other parts of the country but because it is just so overt here.
Wavepool – Do you start with photographs that you’ve taken yourself, or do you source materials from that constant stream of production and sharing?
Tyler Los Jones – When I started working with photography through imagery I had appropriated from Life magazines, National Geographic and textbooks. These were all materials I had surrounded myself with and which were formative in my initial interest in ecology. At the time I had a lot of difficulty confronting the questions of ownership that came with this type of overt appropriation and I just wasn’t prepared to deal with that part of the equation. I quickly moved to taking my own images and became much more interested in my own performance of the tourist gaze. Our mountain parks are full of staged vistas; roadside pullouts and viewing platforms where we are encouraged to take photos that will be almost indecipherable from the millions of others taken from that same place. The images produced in this way have a thin veil of originality covering this highly prescriptive process which produces validation from making images look like images we are already familiar with. I’m much more interested in this kind of repetition of imagery and I think it’s important to implicate myself in that process as well. The works included in Being with, at Jarvis Hall Fine Art in Calgary began as typical tourist images taken while visiting glaciers in and around Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay parks this past summer. The original image in A Panorama Protects it’s Views, which is a large commission currently on view at the Art Gallery of Alberta, was taken while hiking up the Athabasca Glacier, where you can even take a tour bus up onto the ice…
Wavepool – Your process moves from image to sculpture, and ultimately back to image through documentation. Can you tell me about the importance of this result and why an image is the ideal form for a piece?
Tyler Los Jones – Re-photographing these folded works serves a few different functions. Firstly, it is a way of continuing the mimetic logic of these pieces. Mimetic gestures play a role at all stages in the creation of this work, beginning with the panoramic promise of re-recreating a vista. This panoramic ribbon is printed in the studio and folded in response to the geology in the image, mirroring peaks, passes or glacial flow. These folded forms are suspended off the wall in the studio, re-photographed and finally printed flat. This flat image references the way most of us first encounter these environments as documentation. The compression of all of these states hopefully enables the work to enter into this uncanny existence where the familiar transforms into something much less certain. My hope is for the work to slowly pick away at itself and steadily break down some of the assumptions it initially may have seemed to support.
Wavepool – The discussion about preservation and your gestures immediately makes me think about the passage of time in each piece. There’s a great tension between stillness and change as each step of the process is condensed. I’m curious if you’ve thought about other ways to activate time in the work, whether it be photographically or through introducing video or some other medium?
Tyler Los Jones – Ha ha, yes! I think about time a lot and these questions certainly played a role in why I started working with photography in the first place. I’m a bit suspicious of the assumption that a video necessarily has more access to time than certain “still” objects or images. I’m really interested in Tim Morton’s argument that object don’t occupy discrete space-time but are spaced and timed by other entities. I would love to find other ways to get at that kind of a relativity without there having to be a moving image per say. I think this is a rambling way of saying that yes, I’m actually really interested in working with tools like film and sound and I’m especially interested in the collaborative potential of these tools; but I definitely don’t believe that they would necessarily have more to do with time than the images I’m producing now. I think that the perceived stasis of a photograph is an incredibly productive way to raise awareness about temporal relationships.
Wavepool – What artists do you look at? What are some outside influences?
Tyler Los Jones – I’m feeling most influenced by writers at the moment. Lucy Lippard, W. J. T. Mitchell, Bruno Latour and Timothy Morton have obviously been really important for me. I’ve been going back to a lot of nature writing like Edward Abbey, John Muir and more local folks like Thomas Wharton and Howard O’Hagan. Artists like Fritz Haeg, Andrea Zittel and Simon Starling, have been important to me for a long time. I’ve been looking at work by Zoe Leonard, Geoffrey Farmer, Rick Silva, Marina Zurkow, Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison more recently. I’m listening to a lot of Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never), Liz Harris (Grouper), Alejandro Ghersi (ARCA), Felicia Atkinson, Sara Davachi, Sarah Rara and Luke Fischbeck (Lucky Dragons). I think that Laurent Montaron’s Everything is accidental at Mercer Union in Toronto was probably the most incredible art experience I’ve had over the past year.
Wavepool – What are you currently working on?
Tyler Los Jones – I’m currently working towards a show at Ditch projects in Springfield, Oregon at the end of April. I’m also preparing for a residency in June at the Gushul studio in Crowsnest Pass, which is being generously facilitated through the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in Lethbridge.
I’m really looking forward to both of these projects as opportunities for me to reflect on the work that I’ve produced for a few exhibitions over the past few months. I’ve just finished a show at Jarvis Hall Fine Art in Calgary and I have a large scale commission up at the the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton. The work at AGA is the largest piece I’ve ever produced and has been a really incredible project to think through. I’ve been reflecting on that scale and trying to figure out how best to move forward with these things.
To see more, please visit Tyler’s website.