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Tim Etchells is fascinated by the ways in which language is constructed; how any text – from a few words to a seemingly endless story – follows rules and invokes associations.

Winter Piece

Location: Winter Gardens Pavilion, Royal Parade

In each of his projects, whether a performance, gallery installation or neon work, there is an encounter or an event unfolds, and through his use of language, narratives are revealed, new stories constructed as others recede. The first of Etchells’ public artworks for Weston-super-Mare is a two-part neon light work produced for the Winter Gardens Pavilion. Two statements ‘The Things You Can’t Remember’ and ‘The Things You Can’t Forget’ are illuminated in blue neon on the façade of the pavilion. The Winter Gardens and Pavilion on this site, formerly Roger’s Field, was opened on 14th July 1927 and has acted as a venue for tea dances, competitions and weddings ever since, with the more recent addition of contemporary conference facilities.

Etchells’ works in neon often take a narrative form or conceptual proposition and operate by placing unresolvable ideas or language propositions into public space. ‘The work seems to make sense at first glance,’ the artist suggests, ‘but there’s often something in its apparent simplicity which creates an undertow. These neon works are concerned with opening space for the viewer, with the emphasis on the addressee, rather than on the speaking subject implied by the work itself.’

With an eye to the town of Weston-super-Mare and acting as a sign over the Winter Gardens, Winter Piece points to these locations as places in which momentous and ordinary events collide. Etchells was also interested in the seaside as a space of contemplation. ‘I was thinking about the strange state of contemplation, reflection and reverie that the sea invites for many people. In the context of daytrips or holidays, there is something about the desire to visit this huge, expansive natural thing, which becomes a cypher for all kinds of mental processes – memory, the ebb and flow of time and the possibilities of the future.’

The sign directly addresses the passer-by, you and I, as we make our way along the seafront, inviting us to consider the question of what stays with us from the past and what is forgotten over time. The things we can’t remember and the things we can’t forget embody experience. By situating each phrase aside the portico of the pavilion, the artist emphasises the binary division between these aspects of experience.

As the artist suggests though, ‘the work gives a kind of impossible physical dimension or materiality to the complex, entangled processes of memory.’ Presenting the viewer with a provocative artistic ‘as if’, the work, he suggests, ‘both raises and questions the idea of a solid division between what is remembered and what is forgotten’.

Tim Etchells

Tim Etchells was born in the UK in 1962. He lives and works in Sheffield, UK. Etchells is perhaps best known as the artistic director of Forced Entertainment, a performance group founded in 1984, with whom he has directed, written, and occasionally performed in many critically acclaimed performance works at major festivals and theatres around the world. As an artist, Etchells has recently exhibited at Gasworks, London (2010), Goteborg International Biennale, Sweden(2009), Bloomberg Space, London (2008), Art Sheffield, Sheffield (2008) and Manifesta 7, Rovereto, Italy (2008). He was also co-curator of Performing Sculpture, a section of the Tate Liverpool collection display DLA Piper Series: This is Sculpture, Liverpool (2009).


With thanks to:
The staff at the Winter Gardens