Excavator-Barcelona-Excavador1985-88MEDIA: Three-dimensional collages, diorama, book
The crumbling alleys and stone piazzas of the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona. A project that explores narrative themes and urban ambience across different media - a book - a diorama and collages. Source material suggested an intimate scale for the works, echoing the claustrophobic streets of the Barrio Gotico. Tilson had originally visited Barcelona on an InterRail tour, returning to do more research and to sell his magazine, Atlas, in bookshops. Jake also visited Antoni Tapies to ask him to contribute to Atlas 2, for which he made the cover.
Collage work prior to Excavator had relied heavily upon found photographs to build a sense of place. With Excavator Tilson changed tactics and created his own source material of photographs and texts to use alongside found objects and printed ephemera from Barcelona. By 1985 when this project started Tilson had published many small books and magazines often with short narrative texts, he also contributed stories to magazines such as Vogue, who had offered him a job when he won the Vogue Writing Talent Contest in 1979. For Excavator Tilson created a fictional character to use in the project, Mr Emerson, and to bring his writing into the centre stage. The story dealt with the traces of a murder, time travel - the city seen as an archeological detective story. He had been reading the work of Jorge Luis Borges and Phllip K Dick, and a friend had lent him a clandestine pro-terrorist publication on police detecting methods which he wove into part of the narrative.
Excavator-Barcelona-Excavador was exhibited at the Nigel Greenwood Gallery in London. The book was sold in bookshops in London, New York, Barcelona, and Paris. The collage RIP won the Royal Overseas Exhibition award. The book, Excavator, was exhibited internationally and bought by many Museums and public collections.
Tilson exploited an early Canon copiers's depth of focus for the cover. For the title page he made an "E" from earth which he glued to paper and photocopied. The Excavator lettering was adapted from a Catalan newspaper still printed by letterpress.

There are hints at a story; seven murders have taken place and an archaeologist, Mr Emerson, is on the trail of the killer....He plays with the idea of an archaeologist digging through time - but with his horizons focused on solving the murder mystery - setting beside this the juxtapositions of his collages and making references to bogus systems and series which paradoy scientific investigations. It’s an Alice in Wonderland logic, in which the gaps play a crucial part. The more facts we think we have, the less we actually discover. Cathy Courtney

Ephemera fascinate Jake Tilson. He gathers the flotsam of cities - he gives them formal value and intensity.
Marina Warner, The Independent

Jake's studio on Broomwood Road, Clapham, circa 1986
Jake Tilson
, Stylt, Goteborg, Sweden.
Royal Overseas League, London.
Excavator Barcelona, The Nigel Greenwood Gallery.

The book appeared in:
Artist/Author, Contemporary Artists' Books
, USA touring the American Federation of Arts.
Artists Books, the Tate Gallery, London.
Looking at Words Reading Pictures
, London.
Artists Books, The Minories, Colchester.
Work & Turn
, tour.
Contemporary British Artists Books, Scarborough. Contemporary British Artists Books, Hardware Gallery.
British Artists Books, Arthur Anderson.
Bound Image
, Milton Keynes, Spacex, Nigel Greenwood, Artsite.
20 Years of British Art from the Sackner Archive, BASS Museum, Miami, Florida.
British Artists Books
, Center for the Book Arts, New York City.
New Artists Books, Galeri TV, Malmo.
British Art & Design, Vienna.
Artist as Publisher, Crafts Council, London.
Artists Books, University of Nevada, tour.
Nigel Greenwood Gallery, London