City Changes

3 July 2007

2008. 20 inkjet prints, 21×30 cm each (framed: 30×40 cm). Manifesta 7.

City Changes consists of twenty text works, starting with a description of a city in which nothing ever changes. This initial text has been rewritten 19 times to produce a sequence of increasingly preposterous variations, mutations and exaggerations of this imaginary place. The versions of the text – presented as framed inkjet prints – alternate between invocations of the urban environment as a place of order and routine, and descriptions of it as a site of perpetual change and multiplicity. The process of continuous alteration in the text itself, switching back and forth from city-of-stability to city-in-chaos, is mirrored in the visual economy of the prints as changes introduced in each successive version are presented in a new colour.

The evolving sequence of City Changes reflects my interest in the linguistic and narrative tropes relating to urban structures and city life. At the same time, the work playfully unpacks some of the political and emotional baggage carried by concepts such as change and chaos, stability and stasis. In its tracking of the transformation or mutation of a single text through numerous contradictory versions, City Changes also renders visible the process of writing itself, producing a complex colour-coded trace of the decisions, additions and omissions of each new incarnation.

The first public manifestation of the work – City Changes 1-4  – featured as a part of The Sheffield Pavilion, a Sheffield Contemporary Art Forum publication project for The Venice Biennale, Documenta XII, Skulptur Projekte Münster 07, and Art Basel during June 2007. 

Travel Wallet

Multiple for free distribution. Arts Council of England Commission. 2006.

Travel wallet commissioned to mark the Arts Council England's 60th birthday.
One of a series alongside wallets by Tracey Emin, Jeanette Winterson, Liz
Davis, Adam Sutherland, Michael Clarke and music producer Ty.

Etchells' work for the wallet comprises a series of three texts which
catalogue elements from which a narrative might be formed, including
locations, characters and objects.

Drama Queens

Performance without actors. Project by Elmgreen & Dragset. Text by Tim Etchells. June 2007.

Seven 20th Century superstar sculptures find themselves displaced and out of
their usual context on a stage. The performance involves motorised and
remote control replicas of sculptures by Giacometti, Helpworth, Arp, Koons,
Ruckeriem, LeWitt and Warhol. The work unfolds through a series of clashes
and crossovers between the various isms and aesthetics which the sculptures
represent — from formal and minimal to pop and postmodern.

You can read more about the piece, here and here.

London performance at The Old Vic, 12 October 2008.

A Kind of Ventriloquism Job

2 July 2007

Really loving Dave Eggers’ What is the What after strong recommendations from M John Harrison and from Hugo. I’ve always really liked Eggers as a writer of sentences. There’s stuff in Heartbreaking Work and in You Shall Know Our Velocity that has all the energy and verve of Kerouac at his best. I read Kerouac at 17/18 I think, along with Burroughs whose hardcore cut-up Nova Express I accidentally picked up on Derby Market, having mistaken it for something by Edgar (Tarzan) Rice Burroughs, whose probably stupid books about some bloke marooned on Mars I liked. Oh well – I’m glad of these accidents of naming and the alphabet. Some of Kerouac and Burroughs are really embedded in me (though I think thankfully the Rice Burroughs is pretty well all washed away). In Kerouac and Burroughs I found sentences, runs of words, but more than that energies, approaches to language that I still draw on from time to time, in that strange way that we do incorporate language from other people, sample it, replay it, echo it, often unknowing and unwittingly.

Despite the stylistic connection to Kerouac I’ve sometimes been pushed back by the content in Eggers – the whole Real World/MTV thing in the back end of Heartbreaking Work I found too painful, or too thin, I was never sure which. In What is the What though he’s given up on the flowing, stream-of-consciousness, post-Kerouac sentences and on the eternal teenager routine anyway and replaced them with a very tight narrative structure and with what Mike describes as a kind of ventriloquism job; a manoeuvre that has Eggers inhabiting someone else’s life story entirely (that of Sudanese ‘Lost Boy’ Valentino Achak Deng), whilst (at the same time) standing far back from it (writing-wise) in order to let it breathe. No showing off, except the kind of showing off that’s all about not-seeming-to. Really great, awful, disquieting, elegant. Funny too.

Before that I got about one third into We Have to Talk About Kevin. I wasn’t buying really. Didn’t like the narrator, didn’t believe in ‘her/it’ either and I really seemed to be being asked to believe. Had that feeling I get sometimes with overbearing narrators that if I was sat next to this person at a party or on a bus or whatever I would make my excuses and leave. I guess the extended conceit (letters to the ex-partner) started to drive me nuts too.

Listening (meanwhile) to No Age. Can’t remember why a kind of lo-fi Los Angeles punk-duo crossed my radar at this point. Maybe via Other Music. The No Age CD Weirdo Rippers seems very cool I think, just playing some tracks from it here and there at the moment. In fact I am playing the track Everybody’s Down many times over and over and the neighbours are fucking loving it. Ha ha.

Last weeks image residue: canisters of something called patio gas, grinning burning men wrestled to the ground out of flaming Cherokee jeeps by random have-a-go holiday-makers, cops in those white boiler suits again, a forensic facility in Kent called The Igloo, flooded streets, sunken cars and floating skips. Must be Summer.