The Book of Spells, (a speculative fiction)

Nelson, Mike [Artist] (2022) The Book of Spells, (a speculative fiction). .


Marking 26 years since Mike Nelson’s first exhibition at Matt’s Gallery, The Book of Spells, (a speculative fiction) opened on 3 February 2022. For his sixth exhibition at the gallery, Nelson created a new intervention to reimagine the space. Crafting a domestic interior out of the 3x3x3m gallery, the space consciously carries echoes of Nelson’s previous works. It harks back to The Coral Reef, shown at Matt’s Gallery in early 2000, and reiterates the dichotomy of escape and entrapment in the work. It also directly builds upon a section of the 2001 exhibition Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted., at the ICA, London, which attempted to break the continuity of time through the manipulation of the mundane and unwanted – this alchemical experiment is continued at Webster Road. Originally scheduled to take place in the summer of 2020 and delayed by successive lockdowns, Nelson’s piece has developed and evolved in response to these shifting times. What is presented sits on the boundary of claustrophobia and imaginative freedom – an oasis, perhaps, or a self-made prison depending on the visitor’s perspective, but more likely a hallucinogenic mirage alluding to both. As such it may be reflective of the experience of many over the last two years – a time when travel and human contact became inaccessible and abstract, as did our accepted vision of the planet we inhabit. The Book of Spells is accompanied by Q7, the seventh instalment in our ongoing series of artist interviews.

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