Tim Etchells (1962) is an artist and a writer based in Sheffield, UK. He has worked in a wide variety of contexts, notably as the leader of the world renowned performance group Forced Entertainment and in collaboration with a range of visual artists, choreographers, and photographers including Meg Stuart, Wendy Houstoun, Elmgreen & Dragset, Hugo Glendinning and many others. His work ranges from performance to video, photography, text projects, installation and fiction.
In recent years Etchells has exhibited widely in the context of visual arts, with solo shows at Gasworks and Sketch (London), Künstlerhaus Bremen and Bunkier Sztuki, Krakow. His work has appeared in the biennales Manifesta 7 (2008) in Rovereto, Italy, Art Sheffield 2008, Goteborg Bienale (2009), October Salon Belgrade (2010), Aichi Trienale, Japan 2010, with Vlatka Horvat and No Network. 1st Time Machine Biennale of Contemporary Art, Atomic shelter Konjic, Bosnia and Herzegovina (2011). Selected groups shows include Family Matters: The Family in British Art at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery (2011), touring to Museums Sheffield and Tate Britain, The Moon Is An Arrant Thief, David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2010), Play Admont, Regional 10, Austria (2010), In Full Bloom at Galleria Raffaella Cortesa in Milan (2010), Mein Essen Heidelberger Kunstverein (2010), Netherlands Media Art Institute (Amsterdam), MUHKA (Antwerp), Sparwasser HQ (Berlin), MACBA (Barcelona), The Centre for Book Arts, Canada and Exit Art (all New York) and Kunsthaus Graz. He co-curated and had new commissioned work in the Performing Sculpture section of the DLA Piper Series: This is Sculpture, at Tate Liverpool (2009). Etchells’s two permanent site specific public sculpture commissions for Weston-Super-Mare in the UK, opened in Autumn 2010 and he was nominated for the Northern Art Prize in 2011. His work is held in numerous private collections around the world.
Forced Entertainment is a performance group founded in 1984 and based in Sheffield. For the group Etchells has directed, devised, and occasionally performed in, dozens of critically acclaimed performance works that have been shown at major festivals and theatres around the world. Forced Entertainment has had a huge impact on the development of a uniquely British style of avant-garde performance and their work is now included as part of the theatrical canon to students studying contemporary performance. Taking a cue from their provocative name, Forced Entertainment's work is often concerned with the mechanics of the live event - disrupting conventions and expectations associated with attending live performance.
Etchells’s directorial work with Forced Entertainment ranges from chaotic deconstructed theatre spectacles such as The Thrill of it All (2010), Bloody Mess (2004) and First Night (2001), through more intimate and sometimes minimalist performances such as Tomorrow’s Parties (2011), The Travels (2002), and Exquisite Pain (2005), the latter based on a text by the visual artist Sophie Calle. Under Etchells’s direction the group has develop a strand of extraordinary improvised durational performances lasting from 6 to 24 hours including Speak Bitterness (1994 – ongoing), Quizoola! (1996 – ongoing) and And on the Thousandth Night. (2000 – ongoing).
Alongside his work with Forced Entertainment Etchells has pursued a number of high profile collaborations and independent projects in the performance arena. He wrote and directed That Night Follows Day (2008) a performance for 16 children aged 8-14, which was produced by Victoria, Gent, Belgium and which toured the world to wide acclaim. The text has since been produced in a range of international contexts with new productions done or planned in Cologne, Germany, Cork, Ireland, Vancouver Canada and Seattle, USA. His monologue Sight Is The Sense, performed by Jim Fletcher, and his solo in pieces for the world renowned dancer Fumiyo Ikeda have both toured far and wide. His site-specific collaboration with Ant Hampton The Quiet Volume (interactive performance for two audience members) opened in 2010 and has been presented in public libraries in numerous international contexts (often in native-language versions) including presentations in Berlin, Gent, Buenos Aires, Warsaw, London and Ljubljana. In 2011 he wrote and directed a new solo for the New Zeland born, Brussels-based performance maker and dancer Kate McIntosh, titled Although We Fell Short and commissioned by Kaaitheater & Siemens Stiftung.
Etchells has developed a unique voice in writing for and about performance - his monograph Certain Fragments (Forced Entertainment and Contemporary Performance), (Routledge 1999) is widely acclaimed and his work has been featured in numerous anthologies exploring ideas and practice at the cutting edge of contemporary theatre.
Over the years Etchells has also published a range of fiction; much of it exploring experimental approaches to language and narrative, from Endland Stories (Pulp Books 1998) and The Dream Dictionary (for the Modern Dreamer) (Duck Editions, 2000) to his first novel - The Broken World (Heinemann, 2008) – which takes the form of a guide to an imaginary computer game.
Etchells graduated from Exeter University in 1984 with a 1st Class degree in English & Drama. He has subsequently taught, lectured and run workshops around the world at many of the key institutions dedicated to contemporary performance: Centre for Performance Research, Cardiff, Tisch School of the Arts, NYU and Cooper Union, New York, and Das Arts Amsterdam. Recent keynotes include Beyond Curating: Knowledge Transfer in Theatre, Dance and Visual Art at PACT Zollverein in Essen, Germany January 2011 and Keynote Conversation Transmediale 11 in Berlin. February 2011. He was a Keynote speaker at Live Culture, Tate Modern (London 2003). In collaboration with Adrian Heathfield he has framed and curated a number of ambitious live events which aim to explore the meeting points and tensions between artistic practice and academic discourse, often focusing on questions of dialogue. These include Marathon Lexicon (2003 and ongoing) andThe Frequently Asked – a 10 hour dialogue-performance project conceived and curated with Adrian Heathfield with invited guests (artists, academics, philosophers), (2007).
Etchells was a Senior Research Fellow at The Nottingham Trent University (2000 – 2001), took part in the IASPIS Studio Programme, Stockholm (2003), and was a Creative Fellow in the Department of Theatre Studies at Lancaster University, 2005 - 2008. In 2007 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Dartington College of Arts, in recognition of his writing for and about contemporary performance. He is currently Legacy: Thinker in Residence (2009-2010) at Tate Research and LADA in London, Visiting Honorary Professor, School of Arts, Roehampton University (2010-2012) and Visiting Professor - Performance Studies University Hamburg (2010/2011).
In 2011 Etchells was appointed Professor of Performance at the University of Sheffield.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Journal article