Etchells’ neon ‘For Everything’ letters spelling out the phrase ‘for everything that is shown something is hidden’ are only alternately illuminated, disrupting the text so that it is only partially visible on first sight.
The phrase used in this work is taken from James Bridle’s powerful book ‘New Dark Age’, about the politics of contemporary digital society, exploring 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 fragmented, 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. For the first installation of this work, 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’ is viewable 24-7, creating a dynamic relationship between the lit and unlit letters that changes throughout the day.
‘For Everything’ is at VITRINE Bermondsey Square until January 20th 2019.
William Clarke reviews Tim’s solo show ‘For Everything ‘ at Vitrine London including the neon ‘For Everything’ and photo series ‘From Behind’, here.
About Tim Etchells’ neon and LED works
Etchells’ neon and LED pieces often draw on his broader fascinations as an artist, writer and performance maker, exploring contradictory aspects of language – the speed, clarity and vividness with which it communicates narrative, image and ideas, and at the same time its amazing propensity to create a rich field of uncertainty and ambiguity.
Through simple phrases spelt out in neon, LED and other media, Etchells strives to create miniature narratives, moments of confusion, awkwardness, reflection and intimacy in public and gallery settings. Encountering the neon sign works, in the streets of a city or in the space of a white cube gallery, the viewer becomes implicated in a situation that’s not fully revealed, or a linguistic formulation that generates confusion or ambiguity. As often in Etchells’ work, in the neons the missing parts of the picture are as important as the elements that are present. Invoking a story, or projecting an idea out-of-context, the work invites us in, but into what exactly we can’t be sure.