Robin Tarbet completed an MA in Fine Art
at the Royal College of Art in 2006
and BA Fine Art at Norwich School of Art and Design in 2004.
He currently lives and works in London.
On opening the doors the viewer is confronted with a large projection screen displaying an apparent, black & white, window view of a train journey through urbanised sprawl. Around the walls is a simple wooden construction supporting a miniature train track and a landscape of discarded electronic components, a tiny train housing an even tinier camera circles the space.
A discussion between Jonny Winter and Robin Tarbet, 1 October 2007
Jonny Winter: Robin, you grew up amid the rolling hills and orchards of the West Country, venturing to study in the County town of Norwich. Do you imagine this beginning to have been the seed from which your interest in the scale and monotony of the 'big city' stems from?
Robin Tarbet: Probably… Moving straight to London to do a Masters from studying in Norwich, looking back on it had a dramatic influence on my work. I found for some reason I couldn't continue the aesthetic of previous work, and completely re-invented it, although to me the thinking behind the work is very similar. London is fun, but like most I have a love/hate relationship with the place.
JW: Using the electronic detritus of the city as compared to sculpting the enviro-junk of nature. Your playing with scale is friendly, and an age-old illusionary format; to me this is the hard end of your work rather than the Y2K waste issues. How do you value the audience discovery and play factors of your installation at OUTPOST?
RT: I am naturally curious about things, fascinated by magic and illusion and generally like to pull stuff apart to see what is inside. Using the electronic detritus of the city is a natural curiosity for me, as I am constantly using computers but don't understand what all that stuff is inside the slick plastic casing.
JW: Interesting, as your MA show at the RCA masked the operations of the piece much more; keeping the workings out inside the plastic casing. For the Version at OUTPOST you have made the craft of the illusion highly visible, and as much of the installation's outcome as the projected footage itself, rendering the mystique much shorter lived, what effect in end result do you foresee from this?
RT: Over the last year since leaving RCA I have made several versions of this work, and with each new installation version the sculptural assemblage side of the work becomes more prominent. I like the combination with the live projection, ideally with this show a viewer enters the space seeing the projection first then discovers the mechanics of how the image is made. When planning it, I spent ages trying to decide upon how to combine both aspects within the same space, and eventually building the tracking over the top of the door seemed to work!
JW: …the journey of the carriage taking as much precedent as the journey of the viewer. There's a strong sense of the ambiguity of travel, that feeling of wherever you are it's interchangeable for somewhere else; this non-place cityscape. You've created a visual trick, but in reverse, making something more interesting into something banal. I guess this is where the magic happens, but what would you want a viewer to come away from this with?
RT: I do spend too much of my time on trains… and more often rail replacement bus services! As far as the viewers' experience, I think most can relate to staring out the window on the way to somewhere - the non-place cityscape. Maybe this refers to the dullness of the of generic buildings, office blocks, shopping malls, same identity, even the same shops, you could be anywhere…
JW: ooo, existential.