Work is a four-letter word

Jan Timme, Five Words, 2001.

Jan Timme took flourescent paint and scrawled the early-Smiths song title “Work is a Four-Letter Word” on the walls of Galerie Nagel, Cologne, during his exhibition there in 2001. The words were invisible during the day, coming out only at night with the aid of UV lights, after the gallery was closed.

As a space, the club-like atmosphere created by the UV lights clashes with the emptiness of the closed gallery, creating a wallflower effect: alone in a club, as Morrisseyesque a trope as there could be. The phrase itself resists being seen; it demands, for lack of a better word, effort. Which would make the work (hey!) a curse against itself.

Jörg Heiser identified this work as an example of what he termed Romantic Conceptualism: “The title of the work suggests the kind of Kosuth-like tautology that we expect from a Conceptual wall text, but the content infuses it with an adolescent, melancholic, witty refractoriness that few have embodied and politicized better than Morrissey.”

Jan Timme
Emotional Rescue by Jörg Heiser (Frieze magazine)

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