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The show must not go on

By Tim Etchells

Installed on August 2020 on the Landiwiese, usually home-base for the Theater Spektakel performing arts festival, «The Show» is a new large scale installation by British artist and performance maker Tim Etchells, the full text for which announces, in a bold playful imperative, «THE SHOW MUST NOT GO ON».

Raised on a scaffolding structure reaching 20m, and formed of wooden letters 2m tall, the work addresses itself across the lake to the city of Zurich, at once a reference to the postponement of larger-audience theatre events due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, and at the same time a striking, open call for social pause, critical reflection and political change. In this commissioned work, Etchells’ ambiguous provocative «détournement» of an upbeat English idiom «the show must go on» becomes «the show must not go on» − a simple linguistic reversal which creates complex new possible meanings.


Tim Etchells says: «As the 2020 pandemic has devasted lives and economies, our models of human interaction, social structures and priorities have been called into question, albeit to different extents, and with different motivations in different international contexts. Such limited, temporary changes as there have been in these last months though, only serve to underscore the need for deeper, more permanent change. The year 2020 is not only the time in which Corona has amplified global and local injustices and inequalities, it’s also the time in which Black Lives Matter protesters have courageously demanded equality and justice for Black people, and in which the pressure on governments to address the climate crisis has continued with urgency and passion. The hasty return to ‹business as usual› already effected across many countries suits vested interests, whilst the possibilities of the pause, and with its much needed revaluation of habitual thinking and practice represents an opportunity we should not be afraid to embrace.»