Mike Nelson, a Turner Prize Nominee has created an exhibition/installation for the Essex Street Market. The Market, long deserted, is on the corner of Essex Street and Delancy. Michael (M) first told me about this work and encouraged me to take a peek. I usually take his advice to heart (more usual then not ;) and found a Sat. morning to venture over to the L.E.S. I wondered if I’d miss the entrance, but large signs and an open garage front make it easy to located. Sponsors, Creative Time have done a very good job in organizing, monitoring and directing visitors. I eagerly signed a waiver, (without reading it) and then followed the instructions to enter the exhibit through an old Chinese restaurant one building to the right of where I was standing. Um, OK. I walked though the creaky door and immediately realized why a waiver is part of the deal. The room, was completely caked with a mouse brown dust. Broken plates and cracked glasses have been piled high on a few of the dilapidated tables. Sheesh, now what? A young girl, employee of Creative Time, directed me onward, towards the back of the restaurant. I walked through the kitchen looking, but not looking for the presence of rats and roaches. Then through a door. I felt a smile creep across my mouth as the sense of fear, the unknown and wonderment of the rooms ahead spun to the surface like a spiders web.
The building feels like an oddly lit sanctuary. Rooms, abandoned long ago, contain fragmented elements, presence of life or remembrance of death. As a viewer (or participant?) I found myself observing dust, cracks, discolorations, and objects. Wondering what had been placed by the artist, and what, if anything had been left behind by previous occupants.
A handful of other people snaked through the pastel, smartie colored rooms. A few chuckled, others seemed unimpressed, and some gave off a nervous energy that I picked up and could relate too. I tried to stay calm, but being that I have slight spatial (i.e. claustrophobic) issues, the close quarters did make me feel a bit anxious. I especially had to hide this nervousness when walking through a room I could swear I had been in before…..
Finally upon exiting the space, piles and piles of white sand slope from the rusted, crumbling walls in a room streaming with light. I felt as if I had reached an exodus and had a sense of completion as well as, relief. While the exhibition isn’t necessarily “scary” its scary for those with a vivid imagination and a sense of wonderment.
Experience the narrative and see if you can derive a story.
Mike Nelson, A Psychic Vacuum, is on view until October 28Th. Catch it before Halloween….(is timing cliche’? Mike?)
Oh! I also want to add that while in the Lower East Side anyone interested in contemporary art should visit these galleries: