To Lose Sleep


Cardboard letters, steel wires, acrylic paint.
Letters 13cm high.
Install dimensions: 36cm high x 230cm wide.

This lo-fi text work comprises a set of cardboard letters painted with red acrylic held for display on two parallel pairs of tensioned steel wires. With letters distributed evenly on the wires the simple phrases of the work appear in relation to the gallery behind them, with the walls and other installed works serving as backdrop according to the viewer’s position. The two phrases that make up the work are simple variations or re-orderings of each other (‘something to lose sleep over’ and ‘to lose sleep over something’), shifting emphasis from the cause of losing sleep, to the act or experience of losing sleep itself, through no more than a simple shift in position of words in the phrase. Drawing attention to the slippery, recombinant properties of language Etchells creates an unsettling, elliptical experience for the viewer.


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.