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Etchells has worked in a wide variety of contexts internationally, notably as the leader of the world-renowned Sheffield-based performance group Forced Entertainment as well as in striking collaborations with artists, musicians and choreographers such as Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods, Taus Mahakcheva, Marino Formenti, Tarek Atoui, Vlatka Horvat, Aisha Orazbayeva and Elmgreen & Dragset. His work spans performance, video, photography, text projects, installation and fiction. He is currently Professor of Performance & Writing at Lancaster University.
Elaborating the concerns first established in his performance practice Etchells has created a significant body of work in the context of visual art, much of it exploring contradictory aspects of language – the speed, clarity and vividness with which it communicates narrative, image and ideas, and at the same time its amazing propensity to create confusion, uncertainty and tension.
In recent years Etchells has exhibited widely in the context of visual arts, with solo shows at VITRINE (London), Contemporary Art Gallery (Vancouver), Gasworks and Sketch (London), Bunkier Sztuki
(Krakow), Galerije Jakopič (Ljubljana) and Künstlerhaus Bremen. 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, Manifesta 9 (Parallel Projects) 2012 and as part of Folkestone Triennial 2014. Selected group shows include The Cipher & The Frame (Cubitt Gallery, London,
2015), MirrorCity (Hayward Gallery, London, 2014), The Part in the Story.. (Witte de With, Rotterdam,
2014), Version Control (Arnolofini, 2013), as well as Netherlands Media Art Institute (Amsterdam), MUHKA (Antwerp), Galleria Raffaella Cortese (Milan), Sparwasser HQ (Berlin), MACBA (Barcelona), The Centre for Book Arts (New York), David Roberts Art Foundation (London) and Kunsthaus Graz. His work has been commissioned for permanent public installation in several UK and mainland European cities and held in numerous private collections around the world.
Etchells’ short fiction collection Endland Stories was published in 1999, his Dream Dictionary (for the Modern Dreamer) was published in 2001, whilst his first novel The Broken World was published by Heinemann in 2008. His monograph on contemporary performance and Forced Entertainment, Certain Fragments (Routledge 1999) is widely acclaimed. Recent publications include Vacuum Days (Storythings, 2012), While You Are With Us Here Tonight(LADA, 2013).
In 2007 Etchells was awarded an honorary doctorate by Dartington College of Arts, in recognition of his writing for and about contemporary performance. He was Legacy: Thinker in Residence (2009-2010) at Tate Research and the Live Art Development Agency in London, and Visiting Honorary Professor, School of Arts, Roehampton University (2010-2012) and Professor of Performance at Sheffield University 2011-2012. Etchells won the Spalding Gray Award in 2016, awarded by a consortium of U.S. performance institutions including PS122 New York, Walker Arts Centre Minneapolis, Andy Warhol Museum Pittsburgh and On The Boards, Seattle, recognising him as a ‘fearless innovator of theatrical form’.