Tim Etchells is a pioneering British artist, writer and performance maker whose interdisciplinary practice is concerned with tropes of performativity, liveness and presence. Binaries of exposure and concealment, construction and deconstruction, appearance and disappearance are explored in a body of work that takes multiple forms including performance, sculpture, drawing, video and installation, presented in multiple contexts, from galleries to public sites and found spaces.
Etchells has described his approach as exploring contradictory aspects of language in playful and poetic ways. He is drawn both to the speed, clarity and vividness with which language communicates narrative, image and ideas, and at the same time to its amazing propensity to create a rich field of uncertainty and ambiguity. This can be witnessed in his innovative performance works - including ‘Work Files’ (ongoing) and ‘Moving Words’ (2019) - in which notecards or a score are used as prompts in fast moving improvised spoken word pieces, performed by the artist or a solo actor.
Many of Etchells’ works in varied media produce a kind of non-linearity, seeking out an autonomous assembly and deconstruction of encounters and processes, both imagined and collected from fiction and the media. His major sculptural interventions in public space – often using neon or LED - explore the dynamic relationship between the viewer and work, in a context where systems in language and culture are interrogated for their productive or constraining effects.
Often using simple and humorous approaches to language and form, Etchells conveys serious ideas, reflecting on global politics, contemporary identity and urban experience.
Tim Etchells (b. 1962, Stevenage, UK) lives and works between London and Sheffield. His work has been presented internationally with solo exhibitions at galleries and museums including: Kunstverein Braunschweig, DE; TATE Modern, London, UK; Bloomberg SPACE, London, UK; Plymouth Arts Centre, Plymouth, UK; Jakopič Gallery, Ljubljana, SI; Bunkier Sztuki, Krakow, PL; Gasworks, London, UK; and Künstlerhaus Bremen, Bremen, DE. Solo fair presentations include: Frieze Sculpture 2022 and 2018, London, UK; A Performance Affair, Brussels, Belgium (2018); Dallas Art Fair, Dallas, US (2016); and at Perf4m ARTISSIMA, Turin, Italy (2016). His collaboration with violinist Aisha Orazbayeva ‘Seeping Through (Decouverte)’ was performed at FIAC, Palais De Decouverte, Paris (2016).
Etchells’ has produced major commissions for public space internationally including; ‘With/Against', Great Exhibition of The North and BALTIC, Gateshead; ‘Different Today’, SITE Gallery, Sheffield; his poster project ‘And For The Rest’ created and presented in: Brussels (2014), Basel (2015), and Athens (2016); ‘Vacuum Days (Utrecht)’ (2016); ’Eyes Looking’ a video installation which took over Times Square, NYC, commissioned as part of Times Square Arts Alliance ‘Midnight Moments’ series (2016); FestaDi Roma, Rome, IT (2020); Theater Spektakel, Zürich, CH (2020); and Lichtparcours 2020, Baunschweig, DE. Most recent outdoor works at PACT Zollverein, Essen, DE and a commission by moderne stadt for Deutzer Hafen in Koln positioned on the abandoned structure of a 29m wide industrial crane.
Etchells’ work was included in: Folkestone Triennial 2014, Folkestone, UK; Gotenburg International Biennale 2011, SE; Manifesta 7, Rovereto, IT. Further group exhibitions and performance programmes at galleries and museums internationally, include: Centre Pompidou, Paris, FR; Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, DE; Kunsthalle Wein, Vienna, AT; Somerset House, London, UK; Ebensperger Rhomberg, Berlin, DE; Heidelberger Kunstverein, Heidelberg, DE; Kunsthalle Mainz, Mainz, DE; The Showroom, London, UK; The Grundy, Blackpool, UK; Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK; Compton Verney, Warwickshire, UK; Cubitt Gallery, London, UK; Hayward Gallery, London, UK; Arnolfini, Bristol, UK; Württembergischer, Kunstverein Stuttgart, DE; Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Norwich, UK; MATTATOIO, Rome, IT; Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover, DE; The Auxiliary, Middlesborough, UK.
Etchells has concurrently led the performance group Forced Entertainment, based in Sheffield since its inception in 1984. Forced Entertainment are widely considered to be one of the greatest British theatrical exports of the past 30 years, credited with producing some of the most innovative and challenging theatre of the era to great acclaim throughout the world. In 2016, Etchells was awarded the Spalding Gray Award well as the International Ibsen Award for his work with Forced Entertainment.
A new 240 page monograph investigating Etchells’ longstanding sculptural practice with neon, LED and other media in public and gallery space is released in Autumn 2023, titled ‘Let’s Pretend None of This Ever Happened’ and published by Spector.
Current/forthcoming exhibitions include 'The Weight of Words' at Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, UK and a solo show at VITRINE Fitzrovia.