Red Sky at Night is an installation that changes through the course of its exhibition, through which sets of hand-made cardboard letters spelling the word ‘hope’ are hung with ribbon from brightly coloured helium balloons and installed against the gallery ceiling each day. While the balloons deflate and fall to the ground each night, a new set is installed the following morning, spelling out the same optimistic message. With the passage of days and weeks, Etchells’ work transforms its own context; new balloons and letters at the ceiling presiding over a growing pile of disordered messages, deflated balloons and ribbons below.
The work activates the tension between the meaning of the text and its shifting unstable physical manifestation; form and content held in a dynamic opposition that plays out repeatedly. Whilst Etchells’ message of ‘hope’ is presented as ‘damned either way’ – trapped against the ceiling or else fallen to the ground – it is nonetheless always re-stated daily, re-placed and re-performed, as if one day the experiment of optimism might produce a different result.