Folkestone Triennial 2014 Audio Guide Introduction

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Tim Etchell Is Why the Place
Born in 1962, Tim Etchells is a British artist and performance maker based in Sheffield and London. For Folkestone Triennial 2014 his two-part neon sculpture Is Why the Place invites viewers to think about Folkestone’s historical connection to travel and trade - with the everyday processes of arrival and departure which, for many years, moved goods and people via sea, road and railways.

Occupying the two platforms of the abandoned Harbour station Etchells work refers both to its specific location and also to Folkestone’s origins and development as a settlement. Etchells work invokes the importance of the harbour for fishing, trade and travel - celebrating Folkestone’s past role as a staging post; a point of transit or passing through for tourists, soldiers, workers, commuters and travellers. The connection is, in short, between place (stability) and movement.

Starting as a performance maker, Etchells has developed a practice that is extremely varied – from theatre works to installations, videos and sound compositions as well as novels and short stories. In the evocative setting of the abandoned harbour station, the phrase that makes up his new work is repeated, running in two parallel directions, as if the text is both entering and departing the station. Thus, playfully mirroring the arrival and departure of so many trains, goods and travellers in Folkestone’s past.

Since 2008, Etchells neon pieces have been shown all over the world, both in galleries and in relation to landscape or particular contexts. Etchells often uses a line or two of text to colour the way we look, to make a small intervention in the way that we see or think about a particular location. Etchells also explores what we might think of as contradictory aspects of language – relishing the speed, clarity and vividness with which it communicates narrative, image and ideas. But, at the same time, enjoying its amazing capacity to create spaces of reflection, ambiguity and uncertainty for the viewer on encounter, especially in the context of landscape.

Installed on the platforms of the now derelict train station at Folkestone Harbour – which was a focal point for war-time shipments and logistics - connects the playfully doubled phrase of his work to its immediate surroundings. Thus, his work places it in dialogue with the low-key daily comings and goings of the present time, evoking previous eras of arrival and departure as well as encouraging a focus on the future of Folkestone that is so connected to the processes of human movement and change.

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