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 Etchells’ 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.