Wait Here (Double Line) is a new version of Etchells’ 2008 neon, created initially for Berwick Visual Arts for English Heritage’s Barracks site in Berwick-upon-Tweed. The full text for the work reads ‘Wait Here I Have Gone to Get Help’.
As is often the case economy of language is important in Etchells’ work – Wait Here (Double Line) uses just eight words to spell out a phrase which implicates us in a narrative situation whose details remain forever ambiguous. The identity of the person who has gone to get help, what kind of assistance they are seeking, what reason they have to need help and from whom they are seeking it, are all unclear – creating a space of implication without a concrete narrative around which it may cohere. A further dynamic tension exists between the supposed urgency and narrative drive of the text on the one hand and the overly elaborate means of the message’s display. In a certain sense, a text most appropriate for a private communication is here turned into a public one, bringing in a host of confusions and amplifications of its status and significance.
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.