Together Apart was a major new sound installation by Tim Etchells developed for and first shown at Kunstverein Braunschweig, encompassing all fifteen rooms of the Villa Salve Hospes.
Beginning from a set of 20 simple idiomatic English phrases exploring body parts and associated actions – go with your heart, go with your head, keep your eyes peeled, keep your nose out of it, etc. – the work creates an environment in which a single voice calls between and across the spaces of the gallery appearing to demand action that is at times contradictory and, in any literal sense, impossible. Appearing to address the visitor directly, Etchells’ performance of the text, recorded initially as a single 90-minute improvisation and dispersed across multiple speakers, loops and layers to produce a demented polyphony. As much musical as it is semantic, this complex audio work achieves different levels of narrative and poetic urgency as the delivery of its numerous texts shifts and resets over time. Both playful and disturbing, the work’s concern is with both the contradictions of language in its literal and metaphoric uses, and with questions of voice and address in the sense that the urgent fragments of the text reach visitors to the gallery as direct imperative commands. The work exploits a deliberate dynamic confusion between mental, social and architectural space as the visitors are invited to explore the physical space of the 15 rooms of the gallery, which double as a kind of mental space in which the varied impulses of the work are meanwhile negotiated, thought through and spoken out.