'ISAM: Control Over Nature' is a collaboration between artist British artist Tessa Farmer and Brazilian-born musician Amon Tobin. The former is famous for her minuscule intricate sculptures and was asked to make work in reaction to ISAM, a record by the world renowned electronic musician Amon Tobin. “We're both re-arranging and augmenting natural elements to make something imagined but tangible.” Tobin says of the collaboration.
Tessa Farmer works with organic material such as dead plants, insects and bones to produce her otherworldly creations, brought to life by the music made by Tobin. “The scenes are action packed, but frozen in motion - to be animated by the viewer's imagination and Amon's music," she adds. Dazed was lucky to get some time with the two creatives to find out more about this unusual collaboration.
Dazed Digital: Where did the idea for the collaboration start? Is this something that you have always considered?
Amon Tobin: The idea came up while everyone was trying to think of a relevant visual reference for the album. None of my music is made with visuals in mind so it always comes after the album is done. In this case i think I got very lucky. Having such an interesting artist involved in the artwork it would have been a waste not to take things further collaboratively in some way.
Tessa Farmer: I think Amon is quite brave to allow a visual artist to interpret his music (this is from my point of view as I'm a control freak!). I actually find it quite difficult to work collaboratively, but I'm always looking to be challenged and I have gained so much from this dialogue with Amon. He was not at all prescriptive, which again I think is quite a brave way to be. I think he took a risk. I hope it has paid off.
DD: Who chose who? Did you know each other before commencing the project?
Tessa Farmer: A serendipitous link through a Ninja employee and my cousin.
Amon Tobin: We didn't know each other. Ninja got in touch with Tessa to see whether she'd be into the whole thing. Tessa then took it further than I could have hoped.
DD: What is the relationship between the two works (the album and the artwork)?
Amon Tobin: we are both re-arranging natural materials to build imagined places and characters that inhabit them. Tessa builds vicious fairies out of insect pieces and I have this album based on invented instruments and vocalists built from the things around me.
Tessa Farmer: Listening to ISAM for the first time was like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice and entering a dark fairytale world. I was enchanted. Or 'fairy -led'. There was a wonderful moment of realisation 'Oooh so this is what 'my work/ my world' sounds like'. The music adds another level to the imagined worlds and creatures that already exist in my mind. I made the pieces that the music conjured in my mind, trying to translate the energy from one form to another and maintain a narrative that fits with the whole album: e.g. A battle scene between skull-ship riding fairies and wasps and hornets inspired by 'Go to 10' and other more frenetic tracks; a mummified cat infested by fairies for 'Kitty Cat'; falling and fallen birds being attacked by the fairies inspired by 'dropped from the sky'............
DD: What scope is there for further collaboration between you?
Amon Tobin: The exhibition is going to tour the world so hopefully it will go down well and build future opportunities for us both. In any case I'd love to do an animated short with Tessa at some point.
Tessa Farmer: That would be amazing- there just wasn't enough time this time.
DD: What is your favourite art/music collaboration?
Amon Tobin: Rutterford & Autechre was pretty cool.
Tessa Farmer: Celeste Boursier and the zebra finshes at the Curve Gallery, Barbican.
ISAM: Control Over Nature installation runs from 26th May - 5th June at The Crypt Gallery, below St Pancras Church, Euston Road, London, NW1 2BA. ISAM is out now on Ninja Tune.