Tim Etchells
A Broadcast / Looping Pieces

Issue no4
Aug / Sep 2017
Degrowth

"This project begins with gesture of recovering things that were collected; like going back to the things that are left in a drawer"1 - said Tim Etchells, artist and writer, founding member of the UK-based new theater group Forced Entertainment, about his solo performance A Broadcast / Looping Pieces. The show has been presented already in many different places and contexts, including Hebbel am Uffer in Berlin, Hayward Gallery in London, Kaaitheater in Brussesls, São Luiz Teatro Municipal in Lisbon or Theater Frascati in Amsterdam, where it reappeared in December with its latest view at the Stedelijk Museum.

The theater setting of the Teijin auditorium became a stage for almost one hour long improvised performance based on excerpts from the artist’s personal notebook, in fact a chaotic Microsoft Word file. Its content was accumulated over many years and collected from different sources – such as fragments of texts, fictions, overheard words and scraps of information found in newspapers or on-line pages. These pieces – hunted, preserved and finally transformed - gain new life with each new performance.

Gathered fragments are placed in fresh combinations. Notes of different origins that had been put into the virtual environment of “Word” document, through live performance are being brought back to the “real world”. The computer text file became a resource to make an exceptional work based on performative language. What used to be in a private sphere was devolved into public.

The initial intimate line of Etchells’ monologue: "I know we are talking now, but I want to talk to you, I really want to talk to you" - was repeated with different rhythm and intonation that in the end it sounded like a weird formation of unknown parlance. Language itself plays very important role, similar as in all Etchells practice. Its rules and systems, limits and possibilities are constantly tested. The qualities of language, its sound and rhythm, rather than meaning and content, are brought to the fore.

Through looping repetitions words loose easily their meaning, like in children’s language games, where the beginning of the word mingles with the end creating unexpected cacophonies. "Language can't be reduced to the stock of words. [...] A spoken language is a body, a living creature whose physiognomy is verbal and whose visceral functions are linguistic. And this creature’s home is the inarticulate as well as the articulate.”- wrote John Berger in his latest entry in The Guardian.2

Etchells constantly trifled with attention and reception of the audience, implying different intonations or addressed the attendance directly, which often brought a smile to their faces. Randomly arranged thoughts had been organized anew, placed in fresh constellations, connections, even narratives. Like pieces of memories that only when being told aloud - gain linearity, become a story. The text expressed through spoken words appeared tangible. The sentences were almost projected in front of us. Sometimes it was just a phrase, the other time some parts were more descriptive, like the excerpts of the cinematic story about the taxi driver that created immediate visual references.

With A Broadcast / Looping Pieces Tim Etchells reveals his approach to writing and creative process, while at the same time deconstructs its notions. Not only by unexpected juxtaposing and cuts but also by making them transparent, overt and spoken out loud - they leave their primeval, personal domain. Like in a work of a translator who studies the words on one page in one language and then render them into another language on another page - the translated words are not any longer the same. Chaotic notes broadcasted and remixed live to ultimately developed the dissonance of cut and paste aesthetic into remarkable experiment, where everything is possible.

  1. A Broadcast / Looping Pieces, Programme booklet, Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Kaaitheater, p.6
  2. John Berger, Writing is an off-shoot of something deeper; The Guardian, 12 Dec 2014

Tim Etchells, A Broadcast / Looping Pieces, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 7 December 2014

Fotograaf: Ernst van Deursen, courtesy Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

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Magazine
Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 4 — 2017