Mike Nelson’s Amnesiac Hide
By KAYLA GLASSER, MAR. 13, 2014
Installations created by the artist Mike Nelson place the viewer in new immersive environments. Whitehot Magazine visited the Power Plant for Mike Nelson’s first solo exhibition in Toronto, entitled Amnesiac Hide.
Amnesiac Hide features three new site-specific works (in correlation with Canada), incorporating new environments and issues against the familiar artistic processes of Mike Nelson. Central and interconnecting all three works, Nelson explores the ideas of loss, abandonment and dislocation through the mode of the collection of materials- a quite strange mode of communicating loss but ingenious nonetheless. It is through the materials that one can reconstruct narratives, obtain a better understanding of something that is now gone and attempt to make sense of it all. By going through these three new projects, Quiver of the Arrows, Gang of Seven and Eighty Circles Through Canada (The Last Possessions an Orcadian Mountain Man), accompanied by Double Negative (The Genie) one can see Nelson’s initiative to express loss, abandonment, and human intervention through the process of collection and hoarding. These three projects all play an important role in the themes explored in this exhibition, however, I will focus on the Amnesiac Hide: Quiver of the Arrows due to its importance and exploration of his ideology, symbolism and metaphor.
Upon entering the first large installation, it consists of four large trailers melded together, where the fictitious biker gang group that Nelson has constructed in his mind reside. The rough plain metal trailers of the outside, shields the intricate detailing of the inside and comes as a pleasant surprise. The viewer is instantly captured and enticed through the stimulation of all the senses. Sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch are all intrinsic to understanding these labyrinths created by the artist. The senses all play as a tool in interacting with the piece and aiding in its dissection and comprehension.
Walking into the trailer the viewer is immediately alienated from the rules and conduct that govern being in an art gallery. As you walk into the dimly lit room, with a fan beating in the background and a stale smell of alcohol and old wood, the space becomes claustrophobic. You become lost in this fictitious reality. The first trailer appears as though it is a living room for sinister activity: you see a small heroin station, beer cans and a lounge area with pillows and blankets. Entering the other rooms there is a sleeping area consisting of a homemade kitsch blankets a grandmother from the 70’s might have made, books, cassettes, a kitchen with dirty dishes and Arabic texts posted throughout the walls as well as another living area for more accepted recreational activities: a TV buzzing in the background with more books and cassettes lying around. This fictitious environment at the beginning seems like a very real depiction of the living style and standards of a biker gang, however upon closer inspection something perplexing is happening. While walking through the installation, it becomes apparent that the inhabitants of this place are worldly and well traveled. The majority of the cassettes consist of Arabic singers and music, travel books of Vietnam, images of Budha, Hindi gods, and American movie classics are plastered on the wall. These disparate images are all lumped together allowing the viewer to wonder-why are these varied images together? What is it I believe? What is the importance of this? Is this important?
For Nelson, “art is a belief system, the same as heroin or Islam or the biker gangs or stoners or the failed Mexican Revolutionaries”. By placing these familiar ideologies side by side within a space that mimics what would seem to be the reality of the living space of a biker gang, Nelson challenges the viewer to look inwards to extrapolate their desires, ideologies, and beliefs through the curiosity he has evoked through the merging of these conflicting ideologies.
Gang Of Seven consists of a number of sculptural installations that play upon this biker gang theme as well as echo the photographic work of Eighty Circles Through Canada (The Last Possessions an Orcadian Mountain Man). The sculptural installation consists of debris found along the coast of Vancouver where Nelson, obtained objects to create a sort of language and discussion between the environment and its interaction with histories, people and experiences. He breathes life into the garbage left by people. The photographic work then documents his travels along Canada as he finds these objects. Like a new age Robert Smithson or Richard Long he intercepts the landscape to put forth his own signature-which he signifies as abandoned fire pits he creates. All together these three works communicate with one another to explore and examine different themes of travel, loss, absence and other societal issues-however alone they alienate the viewer into a new dimension of Nelson’s perplexing, invented realities.
Amnesiac Hide is on display at the Power Plant Gallery in Toronto from Jan 31st 2013 until May 19th 2013.