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Interview with Tim Etchells


Creator of Vacuum Days Utrecht

Can you introduce yourself?

I’m Tim Etchells. My work involves lots of different areas of art practise, from making performances to writing fiction, presenting work in galleries and making collaborations with other artists.

What is your opinion on the social relevance of theatre?

Art is a great place to try to understand society – who we are alone, who we are together, what ties us together and what pushes us apart. Perhaps theatre is the best of all for coming to these questions, because it is so much connected to the social act of gathering and watching, the communal transaction between the stage and the auditorium. I like performance because it can really test and expand the limits of what that contract between people is.

What role did theatre/dance have for you when you grew up?

I was always drawn to language, to stories, to words and how they worked, what you could do with them. I was interested in acting too.. in what it was to pretend to be another person, or to pretend another situation. That always seemed ridiculous to me, impossible even, but there was still an electricity around it…. a kind of magic.

If you hadn’t become an artist, what would have been your profession?

I would have worked in a factory.

Where did the idea come from to create a series of announcements with the line-up of a fictive event pictured with events that really happened?

The Vacuum Days posters are part of an on-going body of work that I’ve done using texts in different forms – sometimes announcements and bold declarations like headlines, sometimes as graffiti or as neon and LED signs. I’m interested in the way that if an event or an image gets described, however simply, it nonetheless happens – in the mind of the viewer or the reader or the listener. Both in my own work, and in the work with Forced Entertainment, I’ve been interested in this idea of virtual events – events that only happen in language, or in events that only happen in the space of imagination. One of the great things is that the audience for these kinds of works always end up internalizing  and even co-creating the work somehow – they’re responsible for the ‘picturing’ – so as a spectator the images and the ideas are somehow under your skin.

Are you hoping to get a specific reaction to your work during SPRING? What reaction are you hoping to get from the audience?

The posters are funny. But they’re dark too. They create unease. I’m sure there will be a range of reactions. The best thing for me is if people don’t know quite where to put them – are they funny? Are they disturbing, what kind of significance do they have?

Have you ever had the ambition the get a job in politics?

No. I’d struggle with that. Too many compromises. And too duplicitous.

The culture and current theme’s in the Netherlands and in England differ quite a lot from each other. How do you choose the theme for your posters?

Yes these are different countries.. but at the moment many things connect across Europe. Most of the European countries around nationalism, xenophobia and racism. We have austerity – the problem of resources, wealth and poverty. We also have, in many places, a kind of right wing resurgence.  So starting from these things.. it’s not difficult to find points of connection.


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