"Etchells’ new neon is a fragment from Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book (1002) which gathers the writer’s observations made during her time as court lady to Empress Consort Teishi in Heian Japan. The quotation forms the title of one of Sei Shōnagon’s numerous lists, in this case her catalogue of exciting or exhilarating things, the first item on which is, “Sparrows feeding their young”.
Reproducing the title but not the contents of Sei Shōnagon’s personal inventory of ‘things that make the heart beat faster,’ Etchells’ neon makes a direct call to each viewer, asking them to imagine or summon from experience or imagination things that cause their own pulse to quicken. Echoing Sei Shōnagon, Etchells also draws attention to the general category of human experience of exhilaration or excitement – asking us to think about the desires, pleasures, passions, possibilities, loves and obsessions that might drive, inspire and stir us.
Turning a fragment of an ancient intimate diary into a bold public statement, Etchells also reflects on the relation between the past and the present, the public and the private, the personal and the social or shared. things that make the heart beat faster shifts time and context, asking us to think about the dynamics of our relation with each other, with the natural world and with other beings, objects and events we encounter along the way.
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