Preview: Mike Nelson – Eighty Circles Through Canada
Twice Turner-nominated artist brings installation made in reaction to death of Erlend Williamson to Glasgow
Subtitled ‘The last possessions of an Orcadian mountain man’, this show by the twice Turner-nominated British artist Mike Nelson comes from a deeply personal place, serving as it does as a reaction to the death of his friend and sometime collaborator Erlend Williamson, who fell from Glencoe while climbing in 1996. Although Nelson’s installations are generally built to fit a specific space and gallery situation and dismantled after, this one has seen life before: first as part of his show ‘Amnesiac Hide’ in Vancouver in 2013, and at the Power Plant in Toronto earlier this year.
‘The installation consists of a double-sided unit made of found wood collected from Vancouver beaches,’ says exhibition organiser Chloe Josse, ‘with a slide projection and a collection of Williamson’s belongings.’ These slides were produced during road trips across British Columbia and into Alberta. The notion of travelling is strong here, says Josse, as is a sense ‘of disjointed memory and flashbacks associated with the death of Williamson. His [Nelson’s] installations have a unique narrative, always connected to their location in some ways. They’re set up as seemingly abandoned environments, which can be disorientating to the viewer.’
The exhibition will show Williamson’s own used ropes and boots, his tattered wrist cast and rock collection, while the film was made on Nelson’s journey through the wilds of Canada, its meditation on the scenery partly focused on abandoned campsites and fire spots. It seems like a very resonant, human reaction to the absence of somebody from a setting which was so familiar to them and of humanity from the natural world, and Josse sums it up intriguingly when she says the entire installation is ‘an exploration of the trace left by human presence and an expression of loss and absence.’
Tramway, Glasgow, until Sun 11 Jan.