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Question: What do Derby, Paris, Manchester and Dublin have in common?

Answer: All three cities are currently displaying art installations created by internationally renowned artist, writer and performer Tim Etchells.

Etchells has returned to his home city of Derby to create ‘Neon’ - three striking lit installations in public spaces around the city centre.

They were unveiled as part of Derby Festé last month (September) and will remain in the city until January 2022.

As well as creating a legacy for the popular annual festival, the installation is a fitting beacon for Derby’s quest to be named UK City of Culture 2025.

It will also further cement the city’s new Derby Season of Light Festival which will include a lantern parade leaving from the Spot where one of the Neon pieces is installed.

But Derby is not the only city to be proudly displaying this artists work.

Further afield, Etchells’ has been commissioned by the Centre Pompidou to create ‘Qu'y a-t-il entre nous?’ (What is between us?) which is an installation measuring more than forty-three metres long, made up of three-metre-tall letters. It is fixed to the emblematic building, overlooking the Piazza from a height of twenty metres and will be in place until February 2022.

There is also a new piece for Dublin Theatre Festival – ‘If It Wasn’t for Hope’ - (full text: ‘If It Wasn’t For Hope The Heart Would Break’) installed in Temple Bar and other recent commissions are currently displayed in Riga, Latvia; Kunstverein Braunschweig as well as Hannover in Germany.

Tim Etchells is an artist and a writer based in the UK. His work ranges from performance to video, photography, text projects, installation, and fiction.

He has worked in a wide variety of contexts, notably as the leader of the world-renowned Sheffield-based performance group Forced Entertainment (1984 – present day) and in collaboration with visual artists, choreographers, and photographers. He is currently a Professor of Performance at Lancaster University.

Tim Etchells’ art installation works have been presented all around the world, from Gwangju to Berlin, with New York, Derry, Rome, Lisbon, and Blackpool in between and are well known for their comical and poignant dialogue with everyday spaces and landscapes.

Each is designed to be poetic and provocative fragments in light and language which will ask us to look again at the environment we know so well.

Through simple thought-provoking 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.

For Derby he has created three playful interventions – a specially commissioned piece overlooking the Spot in the city centre entitled TO SEE BETTER DAYS; on the walls of the new Museum of Making (WAIT HERE I’VE GONE TO GET HELP) and within Déda in Chapel Street (THE KIND OF STILLNESS WHERE EVERYONE IS LISTENING)

Describing his work, Etchells said: “Infiltrating galleries, street corners, shop windows, rooftops and other locations the neon sign and LED works I have made spell out simple-but-intriguing phrases, messages and instructions.

“Most of the time, you read something on the street that is trying to sell you something. I’m interested to create moments of thoughtfulness and playful encounter in a public setting.

“The work is public but private at the same time as everybody has their own interpretation of the words.

“By appearing to address the viewer directly through these works, I am trying to draw each person that encounters it into a space of intimate reflection.

“In Derby – I have heard people on the streets looking up at ‘TO SEE BETTER DAYS’ and then relating the words to many different scenarios including the pandemic, how the city centre has changed and of course the impact of Derby County football club going into administration.

“I have enjoyed coming back to the city where I grew up and where many of my family still live and it has been very special to be invited by Déda to be part of Festé that ‘Neon’ will be an ongoing legacy for that weekend festival.

“There is an air of excitement here about reaching the final eight in the bid to become UK City of Culture in 2025 and it’s great that people are seeing my work here at the same time as visitors to other cities such as Paris and Dublin are seeing work there.

“Culture is so important in people’s lives. It helps us all see the world in different ways, and it doesn’t have to be mega heavy or hard work. It can be playful, joyful, and just odd!

“Culture in all different art forms, therefore, create keys to open up different ways to think and look and I think people are particularly hungry for that after such a difficult time.”


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