‘Along A Long So Long’ brings together for the first time live and physical works by Swiss artist Nicole Bachmann and British artist Tim Etchells. Through image, text and performance, each artist investigates written language as material and as score. A focus for both Bachmann and Etchells is the act or process of speaking out, which in their practices across different media becomes a tool for transforming and subverting prescribed meaning.
Bachmann’s work situates the body as a site of knowledge production used to explore alternative discourses within language and form. Her new large-scale text drawings combine memory and automatic writing, which are reminiscent of the spoken word and human thought process - the repetition, inflection, correction, and hesitation we experience when thinking and speaking. The scale of the paper creates a performative act through the motions of writing, in which the artist’s body is implicated within its process and evident in each work. The multiple layers of ink create creases and undulations in the paper, rendering a more sculptural form.
Her new performance video ‘along the rims’ (HD Single Channel Video) is premiered in the exhibition and presents three performers - Nandi Bhebhe, Patricia Langa and Cian McConn - outdoor in the natural landscape of Hackney Marshes, in London. Based around collaboration, exchange and the proximity of bodies, the performers’ move and speak together and individually. A fourth presence of the artist behind the camera is also felt within the ensemble. The speech shifts from understood language to utterings. This exploration is carried into her live performance, presented in the public square surrounding the gallery.
Bachmann considers Donna Haraway’s term “tentacular thinking”, which applies to the networks and exchanges we create, and how alliances are formed in unexpected ways because of this. By taking the performance outside the white cube, she encourages the viewer to reflect on this notion through human’s kinship with animals, evolution, and ecology.
Etchells three new works take the form of light boxes, each of which combines text and image to create an ambiguous space of connection and disconnection. The images in these works are strange urban fragments; pictures of pavement or road surface which feature prominent but unidentifiable stains or marks on the concrete or tarmac surface. These accidental spillages, splashes or seepages are simultaneously abstract drawings and traces of dysfunctional human activity and narrative. They take on a metaphorical aspect - signs of another reality
or of memory oozing through to stain the surfaces of an otherwise orderly environment. Paired with these images, Etchells’ text fragments – akin to those used in his works on paper and neon sculptures – amplify the idea of trace, memory and secrets below the surface, creating a dynamic dialogue with the visual material and the viewer’s imagination.
Alongside the lightboxes, Etchells’ presents a new performance work titled ‘Now That I Am Here I Am Ready To Leave’, involving a single performer, a mobile speaker system and a microphone. The performer wheels their equipment into place and circles around or within the audience, before announcing a speech into public space, in all directions.
The public sphere is an important point of departure and subject of inquiry for each artist’s work. Global politics, body politics, contemporary identity, urban experience, and art ontologies are conveyed through varying approaches and mediums, both within the exhibition space and its surround public space. At a moment in which society questions closeness and interaction, each work in the exhibition explores the nature of human proximity, vocal gesture, and the projection of language into our surroundings.
Generously supported by Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation and Arbeitsstipendium Covid-19, City of Zurich.