Mike Nelson

Mike Nelson

The Power Plant

Mike Nelson, Quiver of Arrows, 2010. Mixed media. Courtesy the artist and 303 Gallery, New York.

January 21, 2014

Mike Nelson: Amnesiac Hide
1 February–19 May 2014

Opening with the artist: 31 January, 8–11pm

The Power Plant
231 Queens Quay West
Toronto, Ontario M5J 2G8


Curated by Julia Paoli

The Power Plant presents the first solo exhibition in Toronto of installations by artist Mike Nelson, featuring two new projects commissioned and produced by the gallery.

The Power Plant is pleased to present the first solo exhibition in Toronto of work by the renowned British artist Mike Nelson. Titled Mike Nelson: Amnesiac Hide, the exhibition includes two new significant commissions: Double negative (the Genie) (2014), and Gang of Seven (2013), produced by The Power Plant in partnership with the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, his photographic work. Also included is Eighty circles through Canada (the last possessions of an Orcadian mountain man) (2013) and the large-scale installation Quiver of Arrows (2010). 

The four installations on view are united by Nelson’s deep interest in travel, evoking images of road trips through the North American landscape as well as psychological journeys. In each gallery, Nelson has carefully constructed an intricate tableau that appears littered with the remnants of former inhabitants after an unexplained departure. The absence of a human presence is made tangible in Nelson’s work, and imagining the unseen occupants of these seemingly abandoned spaces is central to his immersive and uncanny environments. 

For his new works, Nelson revisits ideas and forms first seen in The Amnesiacs, a serial project begun in 1996, which references a fictional twentieth-century motorcycle gang. Constructed entirely from material gathered from the beaches around Vancouver, Gang of Seven sees this roving cast of characters come together as interpreters, deciphering the collected material by creating assemblages akin to some form of disjointed memory or flashback. Nelson imagines that the collected detritus spat out by the ocean is the material language of an intelligent entity, much like that found in Stanislaw Lem’s classic speculative fiction novel Solaris, in which scientists studying the oceanic surface encounter their own repressed memories of loss. 

Nelson originally began working with these concepts after the unexpected death of his friend and collaborator Erlend Williamson. In 1996 he had fallen to his death while climbing in the Scottish Highlands, at the time when Nelson was working on his first incarnation of what would become The Amnesiacs. The memory of Williamson runs through the exhibition, appearing in Nelson’s commissioned work Double negative (the Genie). Here, Nelson creates an environment constructed to resemble a rudimentary office setting where photocopied pages from an unpublished travelogue recalling Williamson are enlarged and taped together. The unseen investigators of this text appear to be navigating their own psychological journey through the past, seeking the truth in the material evidence of a story depicting a time gone by.

Nelson’s Quiver of Arrows is an expansive installation constructed from four travel trailers soldered together to form an enclosed space that viewers may enter. While the exterior of the trailers signify a distinctly North American design for leisure and travel, Nelson renders the vehicles inoperable, removing their wheels and sections of their bodies. Audiences navigate the interior of the work, passing through the rudimentary spaces of the wagons, where objects and tableaux highlight cultural and ideological alterity among former inhabitants. Nelson’s first interest in these once gleaming aluminum visions of the future was their resemblance to the early covered wagons of the first pioneers—not an unreasonable comparison considering that the oldest within the construction dates back to 1939. Given the size and scope of this installation, The Power Plant is the second gallery to ever exhibit Quiver of Arrows.

Mike Nelson (born 1967; Loughborough, UK) lives and works in London. He was shortlisted for the Turner Prize (2007, 2001) and received a Paul Hamlyn Award (2001). He represented Britain at the 54th Venice Biennale and has recently received commissions from organizations including the National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen (2009), the Istanbul Biennial (2009) and Creative Time, New York (2007). Nelson has exhibited extensively across the globe and his work is included in numerous public and private collections. 

Mike Nelson is represented by 303 Gallery, New York; Galleria Franco Noero, Turin; Matt’s Gallery, London; and neugerriemschneider, Berlin.

Mike Nelson: Amnesiac Hide is accompanied by an illustrated exhibition catalogue published by Black Dog Publishing in collaboration with The Power Plant and the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver. It includes essays by Dick Hebdige, Julia Paoli and Jenifer Papararo.

The exhibition is made possible by Lead Donors Nancy McCain & Bill Morneau and Jay Smith & Laura Rapp; and Support Donors Sue Kidd & Susie Kololian, Michelle Koerner & Kevin Doyle, Liza Mauer & Andrew Sheiner, Margaret C. McNee, Nadir & Shabin Mohamed, Elisa Nuyten & David Dime, Michael Prokopow & Eric Collins, and Eleanor & Francis Shen.

About The Power Plant
The Power Plant is Canada’s leading public gallery devoted exclusively to contemporary visual art. It is a vital forum for the advanced artistic culture of our time that offers an exceptional facility and professional support to diverse living artists while engaging equally diverse audiences in their work. The Power Plant pursues its activities though exhibitions, publications and public programming that incorporates other areas of culture when they intersect with visual art.


Mike Nelson at The Power Plant
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January 21, 2014

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