Jordan Carroll on ‘Phlegm’ and the Mausoleum of Giants exhibition
Jordan Carroll is a filmmaker, documentarian, cinematographer and editor living and working in Sheffield. Carroll has worked extensively in the field of filmmaking and in the production of several music videos and documentaries with socially conscious themes. Carroll’s most recent documentary efforts has been a collaboration with street artist ‘Phlegm’ and photographer Chris Saunders as part of the Mausoleum of the Giants exhibition, which was on display at an Eyewitness Works factory on Milton Street between March 15 and April 16.
Carroll has also filmed a documentary entitled An Ode to Giants based around the exhibit and its visitors which demonstrates the impact of the artist’s work and its effect on the people and city of Sheffield, highlighting its influence as a city of culture. After the film was released last month, he spoke to Exposed’s Benjamin Wylde about the importance of the exhibition and what it meant to the city.
Why was this exhibition so special, in your mind and in the minds of others?
Because Phlegm is the adopted son of Sheffield, he’s not actually from Sheffield but he might as well be because he’s spent so much time here and his career basically started here. He spent a lot of time at the House Skate Park for, like, nine to ten years and you can see the development of his work into his current style and it’s that style that funds his living, and it’s such a trademark for Sheffield now. The fact that you can just walk around the city and see his work; he’s not actually living here but I think Sheffield has a special place in his heart and vice versa, the people of Sheffield have got a special place in their hearts for him. It’s the only city that he brought this show to, and I was happy to be part of it because I’m a fan of Phlegm’s and to work with him on his latest project is quite special to me.
What was it that drew you to Phlegm’s work initially, and how did you get involved with the film?
So, initially how I got drawn to his work was through exploration. When I started here at university ten years ago, I used to do a lot of urban exploration around abandoned buildings. His work was quite prominent in those buildings then it just spread around the city, and I was just getting to know Sheffield as I got to know Phlegm’s work, so it was one and the same. How I got involved with the exhibition was that I was actually fortunate to know his sister, I studied with her and got to know him through her and when Marketing Sheffield said they wanted make a film about the exhibition he was happy with me because I was a filmmaker that he trusted. He likes to keep his identity hush, so he thought it was better to have a filmmaker he knew and trusted to take over the reins. Some of the key stake-holders like Vanessa Tulman from the Sheffield Culture Consortium were important, as she’d actually been involved and secured the Arts Council funding, so I developed a relationship with Vanessa and she trusted me as well. It was just a perfect relationship really.
What did it feel like knowing that the exhibition you worked on was being viewed by patrons all over the world?
It definitely feels great, you’re part of something so big; I think it feels great to actually shine a light on Sheffield for once. Because my personal feeling is that Sheffield is such a great city and we have a lot to show, it’s great to finally have people looking towards us. We’ve had lots of cultural exports in the past and they get easily overlooked, especially within the wider community. So it’s definitely for everyone involved to have eyes on Sheffield and on the project.
What stands out about the footage for you?
What I like about the documentary, it is about Phlegm, but because he wants to keep himself a secret, Phlegm is not in it. That allowed us to explore the other creators in the city and cheerlead those creators and show what a great place Sheffield is. What I think works so well about it is that the creators are not only selling themselves, they are actually Phlegm’s friends. Some of them climb with him and work with him and love him, so it’s just friends talking about him rather than strangers and that only increases how personal the project is. What I understand is, because I have actually reached out to him a couple of times, is that he loves the film.
They tried to make it as accessible as possible, but unfortunately there were crowd restrictions and things with health and safety, so that meant there were three-hour queues every single day. It wasn’t accessible to a lot of people, so it gives them the chance to experience it as many times as they want because the film immortalises it.
What are your thoughts on the Mausoleum of Giants exhibition itself?
You had a weird sort of emotional experience with the show, because ‘mausoleum’ would suggest something quite dark but the characters are actually quite lovable. They have quite sombre faces and sombre expressions but that’s what draws you to them. You feel like you can relate to them if you’ve ever had an unhappy moment or a depressive moment. But, it also filled you with happiness because they were quite unusual in their style and some were quite funny looking. When you were walking around you actually felt quite comfortable. My favourite thing was how the sculptures were in a space that was so true to Sheffield, in an old cutlery factory, and I just really loved the way the giants interacted with the space. They built the giants specifically for the rooms, he saw the space and then built the giant around it, giving the giants this connection to Sheffield’s past, to steel and cutlery and everything else.
Could you try to sum up your love of documentary in a few words?
I really like documentaries because they’re quite an immediate form of cinema. As the show had a finite amount of time, it was only on for three weeks, documentaries are like that in that they only capture things in the now, you won’t always get a second chance to film a second shot or you may never capture something again. It’s the immediacy of documentary that excites me. You also get to meet real people and deal with real interactions, so it just feels very exciting and fast-paced and that works well with my personality.
Watch the film online at mausoleumofthegiants.co.uk