Clifford Jago's new exhibition promises to “flip the ordinary on its head.” And indeed it does! Known for his use of found objects and readymades, Jago attempts to systematically disrupt balance and expectation, inverting common understandings of fashion and its purpose, ending up with whimsical tableaux, of a larger-than-life dynamism.
With Clifford Jago and the Tulip Chewers, the stylist turns into an enfant terrible of contemporary fashion photography, confronting notions of order, category, and harmony. Jago unleashes this uncannily lively visual entropy by taking a creative leap towards the edge of reality as we know it, gluing together the very materiality of the impossible.
Elena Stanciu: Tell me about this project. What inspired you? How is it connected with the rest of your practice?
Clifford Jago: I wanted to work in a mindset which allows complete expression, an “anything goes” approach from start to finish. The fashion industry tends to park the bus whenever I try to pull some more left-field ideas into the shoots, but because this project was solely my own, I had more freedom. It is an extension of what I’ve already been doing in London studios, only taken on the road, to see how different locations naturally inspire me and how I can play with the DNA of the environment.
ES: What drove you to use found objects and readymades? Is it their aesthetic appeal or rather the potential for social commentary and criticism that draws you to this technique?
CJ: I love the element of chance. Using found objects is amazing, because I can mix in the natural vibe of my surroundings and allow my location to impact the styling and pictures. Styling takes a lot of experimentation and everything is carefully considered to portray a particular message. This is quite a freeing experience – not being tied down by brands and credits, like traditional styling, and it definitely proves that you don’t need names to make an outfit beautiful or interesting.
ES: What challenges do you encounter in this approach?
CJ: The biggest challenge is the mystery of not knowing. My work is unplanned, it has to happen organically in the moment. Sometimes things get weird, but that’s when you need to re-access the direction and find the original buzz.
ES: I find many of the shots in this series are fascinating in how they manage to destabilise their own interior visual and narrative order. Would you say the role of the artist (or any creative) is to create order or to produce bits of chaos?
CJ: I think as humans we are programmed to make order out of chaos, but as artists we try to mirror both.
ES: Why Amsterdam?
CJ: Taking the ‘Jago’ aesthetic and approach to Amsterdam was a tactical move; I wanted to explore the place for what it really is, beyond being tainted by stereotypes and tourism. Amsterdam is the city of weed just like Paris is the city of love. Somewhere in a parallel universe, another Jago is going on a stag do in Paris to find weed.
ES: I’m curious about your relationship with textures and materials. Plastic, paper, soft fabrics, organic elements – are they complementary in any way, or is it their incompatibility that you explore?
CJ: I guess the model really does play a big part in how I start to style and use textures and materials. The character of the face and body will lead me to use certain materials over others. But their personality can also change this in a big way. The elements I gather are like going to fashion houses and curating looks; I think I sit somewhere between a stylist and a designer.
ES: If people would use one word to describe this project, what would you like it to be?
Clifford Jago and the Tulip Chewers is open from 24th to 27th November at PYLOT Magazine, Mare Street Studios.
Words: Elena Stanciu
Photos source: Clifford Jago
Special thanks to: Ulla Models, Innocence Models, Select Models, The Hive Management, Wilhelmina Models, Nevs Models, Robert Parker Productions, Chan Photographic, Mees Templaar and Fyffes Bananas.