Mike Nelson - 2012 | College of Arts

Mike Nelson - 2012

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In his installations, British artist Mike Nelson functions like a novelist, but not a traditional one. The materials of his storytelling are not characters and plot but objects and space. His desire in fabricating these rooms, through a combination of persuasion and seduction, is to involve the viewer in the 'atmosphere' in which they find themselves. He regarded an early piece from 1996, called Trading Station Alpha, as a storeroom of ideas from which he could make subsequent works and following from that idea Nelson's installations have always been fascinatingly self-reflexive. His way of putting it is that he is being pursued by his own history, what he calls "a kind of retrospective, introspective backward glance." The legend of the Ouroboros - the snake that eats its own tail - is an apt image for an art that continually curls back upon itself, using its creative past to frame and construct an aesthetic present. He makes and then un-makes with equivalent intelligence. So "I, Imposter", his piece for the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year, he substituted images of Istanbul from a work he made for the 2003 biennial there, and superimposed them in Venice in 2011. The resulting installation of a photographer's darkroom was a compelling accommodation between displacement and re-creation, the making of a migratory, changeable narrative of two cities, Istanbul and Venice, and two frames of mind, the east and the west. The way viewer's react to this work is consistent with other of this installations; mystery mixed with uncertainty, even a tinge of fearfulness. The atmosphere of this piece has about it an unmistakeable disquieting beauty.

Mike Nelson was born in Loughborough, UK in 1967. He lives and works in London and in the last decade has been included in major group and solo exhibitions around the world, including the ICA in London; the 13th Sydney Biennale; the 8th International Istanbul Biennial; the 3rd Singapore Biennial; PS1, New York; the Moderna Musset, Stockholm; Modern Art, Oxford; the Tate Triennial, and the Hayward Gallery, London. In 2001 he was a recipient of a Paul Hamlyn Award and he has twice been short-listed for the Turner Prize. 

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