Mike Nelson – The Coral Reef

June 8, 2010 at 9:07 pm (art) (, , )

Had a very cultured moment and visited the Tate Britain gallery in London.  Of everything there, whilst having to admire the old portraits of kings, queens and the gentry and recognising the quality of the artistry in the Turner galleries, some of the things that I enjoyed the most were the modern pieces.

Of them all, the one that stuck in my mind the most and I still think about now, was Mike Nelson‘s ‘The Coral Reef’.  This is a labyrinth of 15 or so very small rooms, created in 2000 for Matt’s gallery, that now resides in Tate Britain.  It has dingy corridors between the rooms, mostly in a state of disrepair, conjuring up the impression of people having moved in, made them their temporary home, left very little impression on the space other than one or two belongings left behind and then moved on leaving very little to recognise the fact that they were there at all.

You get to wander around the rooms as an observer and really do feel like you’re outside of their world, looking in on a snapshot of their life.  You get hints of each story – enough to know that there is a story to tell, but not enough to make any real sense of what it could be.  It creates an impression of the story but nothing more.  And there is a real sense of disorientation, especially near the end!

Here is what the Tate have to say about it:

“To enter Mike Nelson’s The Coral Reef is to enter a parallel world. Rooms, doors, passageways, all bear traces of habitation and decay. Different, often conflicting, ideologies or belief systems are presented through these traces. The implied occupants of Nelson’s world appear to be detached from the political and economic centre, left to exist at the margins of globalised, capitalist society. The work’s title alludes to this collection of complex, fragile belief systems that form an obscured layer – a coral reef – beneath the ‘ocean surface’ of prevailing orthodoxies.”

Apparently Mike Nelson has made his name making art spaces like this and I would be really interested in seeing some other pieces of his work.  I would also love to see an online, walk-through, virtual version of his work – it would be so possible to do and make it accessible to a much wider audience.  But as far as I can see, the artist doesn’t even have a website.

If you get the chance and find yourself over that way, I do recommend having a look.



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