Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tjebbe Van Tijen's Scroll of Scrolls

Tjebbe van Tijen’s /Scroll of Scrolls/ - Andrew Oleksiuk
November 1, 2008 · No Comments

For full impact, please visit the website:

(each scroll will open in a viewing window when clicked; please be patient as they load)

Tjebbe van Tijen’s Scroll of Scrolls website uses a clever curatorial style, as well as excellent display technique for an artist-collector. Using densely populated collage, van Tijen focuses our camera-eye on vast amounts of information compacted in a small space. This serves two functions: it allows us to appreciate the scale of the work, and provides an efficient viewing mechanism for large amouts of collected visual imagery. The scroll display mechanism alludes to the earliest forms of picture writing which in turn became alphabets. Van Tijen’s studied yet lyrical approach lures the viewer into a picture-world that shows us a sophisticated grammar of communication and scales to the level of encyclopediae, archives, and knowledge taxonomies.

While many artists have dabbled in collage, gluing bits of bone, pennies or hair onto canvas, collage really takes root in 20th century modernism with Dada. Van Tijen’s montages draw from this tradition, but rather than using visual discontinuity and jarring juxtapostion, van Tijen’s scrolls are ordered and narrative in style. The scroll device reinforces the concept of narrative with its form, and is symbolic of the medium of early written language. What makes this work function well on so many levels is van Tijen’s use of rhythm. The scrolls function as texts and the images have a alphabetic quality in that each individual image evokes a singularity within the grouping. The swiss theoretician Ferdinand de Saussure (father of semiology or semiotics) noted that alphabets as collections of phonemes function as they do because each element is different. Thus in each of van Tijen’s scrolls the relatedness of the individual elements make the collection work as a sum greater than its parts. The rhythms and repetitions that permeate van Tijen’s work function as grammars that help us read the scrolls as stories. This format serves van Tijen well, as such a system can have infinite combinations, allowing him to scale the work as a collection of story objects. The creation of series in artmaking is a common convention. Variations on themes exist in nearly all media and genres. Furthermore van Tijen’s scrolls also evoke the notion that rigidly ordered texts can serve a dual function as textures.

I would contrast van Tijen’s work with a library picture classification system such as the one in use at the Harold Washington Library Center. On one hand, the accumulation of photos, advertisements and other visual material in the library is edited over time, with additions (mostly) and deletions (possibly) occurring in various categories. The librarian acts as the author of the collection. On the other hand the images are usually items of individual interest. The order of the items in individual files is random. The classification scheme functions as a finding aid, not as a grouping with meaning.

Tjebbe van Tijen’s Scroll of Scrolls uses metaphor of image as well as concepts. The structures reinforce the content with their allusion to language and communication. The linkage of collecting to artmaking is clear, and van Tijen’s use of scale metaphorically suggests the idea of archived knowledge.