2 – 4pm
Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art
Nelson’s monumental installations invite the viewer to step into an alternate reality filled with a vast array of objects and personal effects which convey human presence while presenting a world eerily familiar to our own. This exhibition comprises two seminal early sculptural installations, Taylor and Lionheart, in direct dialogue for the first time. Both works reflect on Britain’s colonial past, migration, trade and travel.
Taylor (1994) is a monumental sculpture on loan from the Arts Council Collection. Its title refers to George Taylor, a marooned astronaut from the film Planet of the Apes – a tale where humanity, in search of new worlds, finds itself back in the same place but in an even worse situation. The work also references the eighteenth-century warehouse in Liverpool where it was first exhibited in 1994 – once at the centre of the last days of the British slave trade – and to the Cuban ‘rafter crisis’ of the early 1990s. The work sits like a prop from a non-existent film awaiting the final component: you, the viewer, with your histories and imaginations to complete the story. This was Nelson’s first work to use fiction in this way to suggest journeys to other worlds – whether by force, escape or exploration.
Lionheart marks a pivotal moment in British history with the election of New Labour in 1997 in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union on the ever-changing continent of Europe. Nelson witnessed the beginnings of a new wave of immigration as people from the former east of Europe travelled north towards Britain, arriving in Germany around this time, selling relics from their Communist past. The traders seemed to be retracing trade routes from the East that had been dormant for decades, blocked by the ideology of the Iron Curtain. In contrast, at this time, Britain’s markets were still redolent of their colonial history, both peopled by and selling relics from the former Empire.
Mike Nelson represented Great Britain at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 and has shown in leading galleries around the world. His first survey exhibition Extinction Beckons opened earlier this year at the Hayward Gallery, London. In 2019 he transformed the grand spaces of Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries with his major sculptural commission The Asset Strippers.