The Coral Reef
26 January – 26 March 2000
Reception: A specific yet generic space from the physical fabric of the city. A place of work for guest-workers, ex-cons or insomniacs. This hinterland of the outsider is a parallel world where the rules of society and its economic structure are distorted. Within this given scenario the reception acts as a decompression chamber or preface to territory beyond, and the first intake of the imaginative intoxicant which will allow belief in a structure which is obviously a sham.
There is no horizon: Stepping through the artifice or the ‘front’ as the office obviously is, one is met by a myriad of corridors and rooms with multiple doorways allowing various combinations of advance; a sentence with no fixed language and a shifting syntax, allowing differing routes and varying conclusions by the visitors, who fast become the players in this elaborate set.
Changes of state: The interiors are shabby, run-down and lived in. They’ve been here for varying periods of time, slowly metamorphosing with the scars and scabs, breakages and mends indicative of the inhabitation of this ever increasing strain of humanity. Each door leads to a room, each room another reception, to a corridor, to more reception rooms each with their own particular identity. The individual idiosyncrasies, cultural histories and potentially ulterior motives begin to unfold, and their associative narratives to accumulate. The viewer arrives back at the first office only to find it a replicant, confusing their sense of direction, rendering them momentarily lost. Lost in a world of lost people, a dingy substrata of any global city in a mocking existential loop which both offers escape and entrapment.
To coincide with this exhibition, Matt’s Gallery has published Extinction Beckons, the first comprehensive publication of Mike Nelson’s work. Extinction Beckons features a series of newly commissioned texts on Nelson’s work by Jaki Irvine, which are presented as distinct chapters. Combined with considerable visual documentation of his major installations and sculptures, the book aims to give the reader a full insight into the motivations, concerns and major themes running throughout Nelson’s work.
During the past six years Mike Nelson has built a body of work that has involved travelling to different locales for varying periods of time: geographically spread from Bucharest to Copenhagen, socially and culturally diverse as Berwick-upon-Tweed and Amsterdam. The pieces have all involved a period of inhabitation and intensive work, ranging from two weeks to six months. References to the site are made, sometimes cultural or actual, others fictional or to the circumstances of the show. These mix with other information from film and literature, personal experience and real political situations to construct an idiosyncratic language, often attributed to a fictional ‘other’: a dog with a human mind, a motorcycle gang called the Amnesiacs, or a renegade band of refugees. Such tales of alienation and otherness are at the core of Mike Nelson’s concerns, and which again have thematically driven his forthcoming show at Matt’s Gallery.
The exhibition has been generously supported by The Henry Moore Foundation, with additional support from James Latham PLC. The publication has been supported by The Arts Council of England and Edinburgh College of Art.
Further exhibitions at Matt’s Gallery
The Book of Spells, (a speculative fiction)
3 February – 24 April 2022
More things (To the memory of Honoré de Balzac)
13 February – 14 April 2013
AMNESIAC SHRINE or Double coop displacement
7 June – 30 July 2006
9 – 19 December 1998
TRADING STATION ALPHA CMa
27 January – 3 March 1996