Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Mike Nelson - To The Memory of HP Lovecraft

The work was called To The Memory of HP Lovecraft which was the subtitle of a Borges short story called There Are More Things where he emulated the style of HP Lovecraft. In the piece I was emulating both Borges and Lovecraft but flung into a white walled space. I rebuilt the space – the walls and the corridors – and attacked it as though a beast had ravaged through it. I like that piece. It was quite confronting and there was plenty of aggressive action in it. It took me weeks with an axe to chop it up. It was a small axe.
In horror literature, the narrative quality of buildings is made literal in the form of the ‘haunted house’: the house with a story to tell. With To the Memory of H. P. Lovecraft (1999) at the Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, Nelson allowed something terrible to haunt a space that was about to close for renovation. Building false walls that replicated the look of an archetypal modern art gallery, he then unleashed a beast to slash and tear the place apart, its claw marks on the walls apparently traces of some unspeakable horror.
Jonathan Jones

In the (Hayward Gallery) remake of the artist’s ‘To the Memory of HP Lovecraft (1999)’ previously installed at the Collective Gallery in Edinburgh, it’s the subtitle of a story by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges that was inspired by the US horror writer.

“It’s kind of a parody of a parody of a parody.” said Nelson, standing in the room which is meant to look as it does, of a creature causing general destruction.

Nelson also barred the windows and installed a large trapdoor over the stairs — as if to keep us out or the ‘thing’ in.

Nelson himself just went mad in there, in an exhausting orgy of very calculated, premeditated and staged destruction, taking an axe to walls the English artist put up himself.

“I’m sort of enjoying it. But you have to use an axe so it’s quite exhausting, each mark is done by hand.” he added, with holes in the wall around him, splinters all over the floor, and feces of the beast.

Something has been here before you - a malevolent, spooky, cheeky something with sharp claws and a sense of humour. In what was a decorous gallery space lies chaos: ripped-out shreds of plasterboard, still-steaming excremental piles of - oh, wood chip. Where once were pristine white walls, now are gaping holes revealing fuse boxes, dust.

There is method in this messy madness, or at least 'sculptural intervention' by artist Mike Nelson. Dedicated to creepy maverick HP Lovecraft, Nelson's going-over of the space does have a supernatural quality to it, not least because it looks freshly wrecked. Lacerations in the wall only go so high, and have been made with such force that this looks like beastly work, perhaps that of a deranged, trapped bear. If it's man-made, it's madman-made.

And yet it makes perfect sense, with the gallery about to close for major redevelopment. Once you know that this is a precursor to what the builders will be doing, the magic diminishes somewhat - but it's the first encounter that matters. It has the revolutionary vibe of blowing up the institution, destroying the Establishment, ruining the white cube of the gallery.
Elisabeth Mahoney

No comments: