No Reason is an installation comprising seven linked text sculptures – two wall-mounted neon pieces and four free-standing plywood structures. Created for the exhibition Between Us at Kunsthalle Mainz (15 March – 16 June 2019) the works all feature text in the form of instructions or invitations to action, bringing to mind scenarios of bodily extremity, conflict, confusion or possible violence. Through this series of putative instructions – as in Safety Measures (2006) or Some Imperatives (2014) or Surrender Control (2001) – Etchells implicates the viewer in different imaginary situations, often with a hint of physical peril at their heart.
Etchells’ free-standing structures made of machine-cut plywood are intimidating or impolite in scale, requiring viewers to step back or maintain distance in order to see them in the space, whilst their apparently haphazard installation – overlapping and faced in different directions – places a further choreographic and semantic burden on the spectator who must chart a path between and around the pieces in order to observe or make sense of them.
About Tim Etchells’ text works
Etchells’ text 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.