Songs about Being Free is one of two new neon works Etchells produced for Kunsthalle Wien in the context of the exhibition “… of bread, wine, cars, security and peace” in March 2020. Appearing to announce the title of a category of songs, Etchells work conjures real or imagined songs in the heads of those who encounter it. At the same time both works seems to raise questions about their own classification or system of categorisation – what kind of songs belong, for example, in this category of songs about being free and what kind of freedom is being discussed or proposed in them? Are we talking about collective political freedom or some individualised, personal even romantic freedom? Installed, in the first place, at the entrance to the Kunsthalle Etchells’ work also offers itself as a possible headline title to the contents of the building.
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.