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Ellen Rogers and Tobias Prizme Jones: A Lot More than Bonnie and Clyde

A Parallel Planets piece by Erin Nøir - old account

Parallel Planets presents Ellen Rogers and Tobias Prizme Jones
in A Lot More than Bonnie and Clyde
Interview by Erin Emocling

* * *

Parallel Planets: Describe Ellen Rogers and Tobias Prizme Jones as individual artists, as creative partners, and before you became one.

Ellen Rogers: "My main and perhaps only discipline is photography. Before we met, I was embroiled in the comic world, so many of my influences came from artists like Bill Sienkiewicz, Moebius, etc. But I suppose this was a common ground for us as Tobias was an illustrator when we first met."

Tobias Prizme Jones: "There’s no simpler way to describe my position in life at the time of meeting Ellen other than to say I was, for all intents and purposes, a child with childish tendencies and desires. This wasn’t only echoed in my work but also my choices and direction in life. Around the time of meeting Ellen was a pivotal point in my life wherein the discoveries I was making about the wider world were irreconcilable with my immature and irresponsible self.

I was hunkered down in rough rented accommodation in South London trying to shake off the hated bravado of the music industry that had held my fancy for several years previous. I wasn’t eating properly or affording the rent; I was at rock bottom. I think a desire to rise from our respective situations is one of the things Ellen and I saw in each other at the time. That and a great sense of independence; a desire to go it alone and reject the ‘community’ that surrounded each of our disciplines."

an Ellen Rogers and Tobias Prizme Jones collaboration

Parallel Planets: How long have you been together? How does being “lovers” influence your artistic productivity?

Ellen Rogers: "I can’t quite remember, I think you could safely say around 7 years? I think we do certainly influence each other, we have a few staple references that come from our relationship and we get a chance to mull over ideas together more than most collaborators do."

Tobias Prizme Jones: "I think our influences, though different, have found a certain compatibility. There are, of course, differences here and there as one would expect, but nothing the other wouldn’t understand and respect. It’s hard to say that being ‘lovers’ would influence a working relationship differently to two people who had worked together at the same discipline for many years. However, therein may lay an answer. The effect on the work would also depend on the content of the relationship and vice versa I suppose.

Parallel Planets: "What is it like to work together on something really promising, i.e., Decoherence? Tell more about this project and your roles in it."

Ellen Rogers: "It can be trying, actually that’s an understatement, and sometimes working on something that invades all aspects of your professional and personal life at the same time can be unwise. I suppose there isn’t any alternative for us and we constantly try and work though and bumps in the road amicably but we are both stubborn and have quite highly developed aesthetic ideals. My role is like that of a film director when it comes to the way our cut scenes are shot, the way the photography on the whole looks and overall aesthetic. Design is left entirely to Prizme and writing is mainly in the hands of Prizme too. Rose our Associate Producer handles everything in between, to large amounts of copy/text, puzzles, etc. This is Prizme's brain child, I am here to help bring it to life, Rose is our main support, Janelle carefully and skilfully codes everything and Emilia styles all our characters."

a screen still from Decoherence: a game written & designed by Tobias Prizme Jones and produced & directed by Ellen Rogers
a screen still from Decoherence: a game written & designed by Tobias Prizme Jones and produced & directed by Ellen Rogers

Tobias Prizme Jones: "‘Promising’ is a debatable tag at this point in time I would have to say. From my perspective I see only peril and many long months of labour I’m afraid to say. There are so many pitfalls that need to be uncovered first before I’ll comfortably assess the project for any signs of the aforementioned promise.

To burrow to the root of Decoherence I would have to say, like everything else we do, it comes from a selfish desire to express ourselves. I can’t speak for the whole team but my observation is that everyone on board has a desire to leave their mark in their own particular way on the project. If I can facilitate them in doing that to the highest degree I’ll be happy and I know the outcome will be so much better. Even in the small amount of progress we’ve made on the project I’m so happy everyone has had the chance to critique and expand everything that’s happened."

Beyond the work ethic, my impulse for the project is a long held desire to create games. I’ve always felt a yearning to make games that combine all of the facets I like in other mediums. There’s still so much scope for the medium of games. I feel as though the games industry looks inwards too much in order to find its inspiration. It’s often driven by monetary incentives that force it to play safe and stick to the established formulas. I feel our position as a small start-up gives us a chance to explore unfamiliar regions.

I also like the idea that there’s a single medium that uses all the smaller mediums I’ve trained in over the years. I can stop feeling like a jack of all trades."

a screen still from Decoherence: a game written & designed by Tobias Prizme Jones and produced & directed by Ellen Rogers
a screen still from Decoherence: a game written & designed by Tobias Prizme Jones and produced & directed by Ellen Rogers

Parallel Planets: In your previous collaborations, which ones do you treasure the most, want to alter or develop, and think strongly highlight your combined artistic style?

Ellen Rogers: "I suppose the short answer to that is that until 'Decoherence' I value 'The Dissolution' the most, it was never released however because we simply couldn’t afford to put it out. As for something I want to alter the most I would say Prizme constantly wants to develop and update both of our websites hehe, you can ask him why. And lastly I think ‘Decoherence’ will combine our artistic styles or at least our ideals and concerns."

Tobias Prizme Jones: "As Ellen states, ‘The Dissolution’ was our last and only really substantial collaboration. In many respects it was a final stage of our finding mutuality between or two styles. Before then we were both developing and not particularly looking to distil our output with anything else.

Its ill-fated course (whereupon it was never released) was not such a bad thing for me as I saw more value in the training and collaboration we both undertook. I still have a sneaking suspicion that this project will be released at some point in the future. So I’m happy that this one amendment will eventually transpire."

a poster by Tobias Prizme Jones for Ellen Rogers' exhibition in 2011

Parallel Planets: "Aside from each other, what/who else inspire your works?"

Ellen Rogers: "I spend a great deal of my time reading, I would say whatever I am reading at that moment informs or influences my next creative idea. That can be practically anything; I am actually reading all the Hannibal Lecter books at the moment haha so goodness knows how that will manifest itself."

Tobias Prizme Jones: "Ah, the unanswerable question! Of late, I’m often inspired by great orators or people who otherwise have great lucidity in the moment. I suppose everything about my work is so meditative that it’s refreshing to see people who draw instantly from a great wealth of understanding. Political or philosophical orators have spent their lives building up their world view from the ground up so they can combat every argument in a consistent fashion; consistency with only a moment’s notice."

Parallel Planets: How do you deal with your differences of opinion and taste?

Ellen Rogers: "Of late, we have had to try and put forward a case for the other to try and convince the other that our one side is more reasonable than the others. However, it can be a minefield and it can get messy."

Tobias Prizme Jones: "Usually the process has to be boiled to down into meaningful components. I think pure opinion without meaning is useless and can be disregarded. If one of us hopes to achieve an outcome then the burden of proof lies with that person to explain the reasons why in a reasonable fashion. Simply saying something has to be a certain way because their taste dictates is not compelling to anyone because no one can see inside of that ‘taste’. The quintessential components of that feeling have to be explored and proven useful to the outcome for them to be used.
The caveat being that this can lead to long debates. However, by the end of these debates the subject has been thoroughly investigated from many angles. The trick is to undertake this process amicably which, granted, is difficult when the topic is your own emotions toward something. It requires that one should stand outside of their feelings for a time and commit to dissect them."

Ellen Rogers business cards by Tobias Prizme Jones

Parallel Planets: Aside from film photography, I found out that you are also into filmmaking. Tell more about this other creative pursuit of yours.

Ellen Rogers: "I suppose that was one of the main reasons I wanted to do this project was that the entire of our cut scenes are shot on film so it gives me a great platform to learn and be creative with a medium like that still excites me."

Parallel Planets: Aside from design and illustrations, what else are you interested in? What do you during your idle time?

Tobias Prizme Jones: "I spend much of my time keeping abreast of current affairs. This, I find, also pushes me to delve into history more and more. I often feel foolish for not knowing the ruler of a certain nation and how they came to be there."

Parallel Planets: Mention three of your “common” favourite things—stuff that you both like to do together, go to together, listen to or watch together, etc., excluding what you do creatively.

Ellen and Tobias Prizme: "Drink Vanilla Earl Grey tea, take walks in the peaks, dream of owning a cat."

Parallel Planets: Aside from Decoherence, what other projects are you currently working on together?

Ellen and Tobias Prizme: "We have just finished making a book, which is a sort of cross over to ‘Decoherence’. It was a commissioned publication from a hair stylist called Kenna, it includes many of our frequent collaborators too, Emilia, Maxine Anastasia, us two..."

Katabasis: a book designed by Tobias Prizme Jones, featuring the works of Ellen Rogers and Kenna

Parallel Planets: In this planet that we're thriving in—

What is your power animal?

Ellen: "A friend of mine Meredith Yayanos once noticed I had a picture of Isabella Adjini in my studio from possession and quipped that she was her power animal too, so I will say, Isabella's character in Possession."

Tobias Prizme: "I’ve had disagreeable run-ins with Power Animals in the past and I came off worst."

Who is your alternate ego?

Ellen: "I always toyed with the name Emma Tarot, as a tribute to Gerda Taro."
   
Tobias Prizme: "Prizme is my alter ego I suppose. Tobias became worn out."

Parallel Planets: In an alternate universe where art does not exist—

What will your name be?

Ellen: "It really depends on what you consider art."

Tobias Prizme: "Frank."

What do you think you would be doing instead?

Ellen: "If I wasn't an artist I think I'd be very sad and bored."
       
Tobias Prizme: "I guess I’d be doing what everyone else without a means of expression does – filling the void with material things / watching tv / ruling countries / starting wars etc."

a screen still from Decoherence: a game written & designed by Tobias Prizme Jones and produced & directed by Ellen Rogers

More from Ellen Rogers and Tobias Prizme Jones

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