2 October – 20 January 2019
Preview: Monday 1 October, 6-8pm, with Performance and After Party from 8-11pm at BAC.
VITRINE, London. Daily 24/7.
VITRINE is delighted to present a solo exhibition of work by Tim Etchells. Taking cues from its position in a busy public square, Etchells fills VITRINE’s space with a 12 metre-long neon piece that reads ‘For everything that is shown something is hidden’. The letters spelling out the phrase are only alternately illuminated, disrupting the text so that it is only partially visible on first sight.
Etchells is constantly collecting language from around him: fragments overhead on the bus, in the street, in movies and in books. The phrase used in this new work is taken from James Bridle’s book ‘New Dark Age’, which explores both the transparency of electronic networks and the possibilities for subterfuge they create. Situated in the gallery space, the words playfully enact themselves: with just every other letter illuminated, the phrase is disrupted, presenting initially as a random assortment of letters. It is only on closer inspection, when both the illuminated and unlit letters are visible, that the text comes into focus and a new layer of meaning is apparent.
At the planning stage of each new work, Etchells considers the transaction that takes place between the potential piece and its audience. In this project, he animates the public square at VITRINE and explores the implications of a work that is both seen and unseen. Occupying VITRINE’s impressive window space ‘For Everything That is Seen’ will be viewable 24-7, creating a dynamic relationship between the lit and unlit letters that changes throughout the day.
Adjacent to and in a dialogue with the neon work, round the corner of VITRINE’s window space, Etchells presents a series of photographs taken during the protests that greeted U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent visit to the UK. Taken from amidst the marching crowd, the images document the signs that protestors carried, but, rather than the fronts, we see the reverse sides of the placards, revealing the diverse arrangements and colours of crisscrossed tape that holds them together. Although some of these signs were clearly made in haste and others are neater and more efficient, all of them evidence the labour and improvisation undertaken by individual protestors in advance of the march. In contrast to the slogans of the front, which were made for presentation to an audience, the backs of these signs are less considered, and, like a theatrical stage set seen from behind, are primarily visible to those involved in the march itself.
In both these works, Etchells considers the relationship between the seen and the unseen. Documentation of the reversed protest signs reveals a procession of abstract drawings whilst in the neon, the language is playfully broken down so that only half is readily visible, a jumble of letters. In each case, we become acutely aware of the mechanics of communication and must draw closer to see the whole story.
Text, spoken and written, is at the heart of Etchells’ practice. The language he employs is playful and poetic, often using humour as a route to serious and somewhat unsettling subject matter. This new body of work at VITRINE is exhibited concurrently to Etchells’ sculpture commission ‘Everything is Lost’ for Frieze Sculpture in Regents Park (presented by VITRINE). As with his work at VITRINE, ‘Everything is Lost’ considers language at the point of its own disintegration. In this work too the letters act out their content, placed on a grid but in an unruly fashion, the text lies between the legible and the illegible, its message both obscured and revealed in the playful gesture of the work.
Etchells works across a broad range of mediums, including neon, text, performance, and drawing. He is the Artistic Director of Forced Entertainment, the world-renowned Sheffield-based group of artists who collaborate to make projects in theatre and performance. Their latest production, ‘Out of Order’ was directed by Etchells and premiered on 27 April 2018, at Bockenheimer Depot, Frankfurt.