Commissioned for Centre Pompidou, Paris, Qu’y a-t-il entre nous? (roughly in english – ‘What is between us?’) is a 42m long installation in letters 3m high neon work. Affixed to the iconic building at a height of 20m and overlooking the neighbouring public piazza, Etchells’ work speaks into the city with a vivid and lively question operating on a number of levels. In bold colour and simple language – a common phrase in French as in English, here taken out of context – Etchells’ floats a delicate inquiry about what we share, what connects us and what lies between or separates us. It’s a question for friends and lovers, a question for neighbours, co-workers and citizens as well as an inquiry that reaches to larger groups, communities and even nations. Qu’y a-t-il entre nous? What connects us, what lies between or separates us, what do we share?
Crossing the piazza, walking to the metro, passing by on foot, by bicycle, motorbike or car each person is quickly implicated in Etchells’ intimate and at the same time political inquiry, each bringing their own inflections and answers to the matter at hand.
At the same time Etchells’ question also speaks to the relationship between Centre Pompidou and the city, between the museum and its public. It’s installed at a moment just before the museum closes for renovation and Etchells’ intervention serves as a cue to consider the past, present and future of the museum, it’s dialogue with and transformational presence in the city.
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.