Kunsthalle Münster

Mike Nelson

01 Nov 2014 - 22 Feb 2015

Mike Nelson
Studio apparatus for Münster
Studio apparatus for Kunsthalle Münster
1 November 2014 - 22 February 2015

"Studio apparatus for Munster is a serial work, the first of which was made in 1998 and again in 2010 at Camden Arts Centre London, its other incarnations to date have been produced for the MAMCO, Geneva in 2005 and the Palais de Tokyo, Paris in 2014, opening almost concurrently with this work in Munster. Each 'apparatus' reflects the moment within which it is made, a studio self-aware of its status - as something which potentially acts as a mechanism to predict the future of the artist's own making. This absurd but equally plausible idea is helped by the borrowing of a structure, or narrative, that prescribes a scenario which in each case is the same; 'School for Crusoes'(1882) a book by Jules Verne, within which he parodies his own favourite genre of the mysterious island. Verne wittily uses the reference to his literary forebears to play with ideas of the shipwreck and the subsequent isolation of the protagonist, something Nelson borrows to reapply to the artist and his nomadic studio. To apply and emulate this, Nelson looks into his own production, cannibalising both visual motifs and references to conjure new, or future works from those pre-existing. He uses the analogy to futuro-linguistics, referred to in Stanislaw Lems's 'The Futurological Congress' (1971), to explain this process in which words are morphed, twisted and conjoined to produce new words, which will exist in the future, and logically will describe things we have never seen. Nelson takes this literally, producing the word 'futurobjectics' to apply to his own process - a bastardisation of the word taken from Lem. The work is both serious and mocking, the idea of parody has long been of interest to the artist and in this respect often leads to something almost 'Baroque', especially when its definition is taken from the preface of Borges' 1953 edition of 'A Universal History of Infamy' which states that the Baroque is the exhaustive condition of self-parody pushed to its logical extreme. In both Paris and Munster, Nelson looks back to a temporary public work that was once to exist, but was not realised; here, he builds maquettes for its possible realisations, only for them to become memorials to a phantom work - like a severed limb whose digits can still be felt. In this way, the teleological dealing of time suggested in the earlier works is hi-jacked in an attempt to exorcise a lost work."
(Mike Nelson)

Mike Nelson is known internationally for his complex installations and sculptures. Through the appropriation and exposure of everyday materials and finds, his work transforms exhibition spaces into mysterious environments, absent of people, within which hidden or unforeseen elements beguilingly or unsettlingly appear and block the viewer’s movement. As spatially pervasive entities, Nelsons works must often be negotiated on foot and thus physically experienced.

Studio apparatus for Kunsthalle Münster was conceived especially for the exhibition in Münster and built on-site over a period of several weeks. In some respects site-specific, the work actually belongs to a serial work-complex, the parameters of which—like the sequences of artistic production and conditions for its reception—are determined by the exhibition’s respective location.

This is the fifth realization of Studio apparatus: first exhibited in 1998 at the Camden Arts Centre in London, then in 2005 for MAMCO in Geneva, and also in 2010 at the Camden Arts Centre as a reconstruction of the original version. The current variants were newly developed for the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and the Kunsthalle Münster, the first time this work will be presented simultaneously in two different locations at the same time.

Although obviously based on Studio apparatus for the Palais de Tokyo, Studio apparatus for Kunsthalle Münster was completed several weeks earlier. Both evoke a space within a space. While the accessible work in Paris with its cubist, concrete-clad walls appears monumental and resembles a modernist chapel, the standardized, reinforced steel mesh variant in Münster is rendered like like a provisional sculpture, a sharp-edged, vibrating metal cloud with a silhouette resembling an island. Embedded like a ship in the Kunsthalle, its construction blocks visual axes and pathways while circulating back into itself, becoming an optically elusive architectural terrain of cases, niches, and compartments. The artist is not present, nor is an artwork as such shown. Rather, a glimpse into a possible working environment is created, one that exposes itself virtually, albeit in an unresolved dimension between a construct and its physical realization.
Visitors to the exhibition are invited on a voyage of discovery into a territory of artistic production that appears both under construction or in the process of being dismantled—an expedition with an archeological mission, the search for an artwork that appears lost within branching labyrinths of space and levels of time.

The fantastical and factual are almost indistinguishable, evidenced here by the various cast concrete heads. Assembled in a large group, the heads appear like relics or iconoclastic trophies on the floor, walls and on various levels within the sculpture. One can only speculate about their function or meaning. Their origins, however, are no secret: they are easily recognizable as casts of horror figures, literary and political stars.

In the fluidity of the shifting boundaries between fiction and reality, between solidification and volatility, the work in Münster examines not only the capacities and defects of human perception, Where the eye is looking at one thing and the brain is telling you another (Mike Nelson): rather, the authority of the pictures themselves, the sense of artistic authorship, appears here to be doubted. Is the artist placing the meaning of a work as irreversibly established or is meaning not continuously and newly re-written through the processes of individual interpretation?
As part of a serial work-complex, Studio apparatus touches on the principal of repetition. Repetition also means reversion, and in this instance visitors to the Kunsthalle are demanded to confront their own mental reconstructions of the past, vis a vis those of the artist, for future reflection. Consequently the trace of a lost artwork in Studio apparatus lies less in the deceptive process of seeing, but in the remembering of a condition not yet realized—and one that will likely have disappeared in the future. Those that want to escape must in fact go deeper.
The inherent risk is to remain stranded at the point of departure for one’s own reasoning—on one’s own “island of the mind”...

Mike Nelson represented Great Britain at the 54th Venice Biennial in 2011 and was twice short-listed for the Turner Prize (2001 and 2007). Mike Nelson was born in Loughborough (GB) in 1967 and lives in London. Studio apparatus for Kunsthalle Münster is his first institutional solo exhibition in Germany. Mike Nelson is represented by 303 Gallery (New York),#Galleria Franco Noero (Turin), Matt's Gallery (London) and neugerriemschneider (Berlin).

Text: Marcus Lütkemeyer
Translation: Owen Gump

Tags: Owen Gump, Marcus Lütkemeyer, Mike Nelson