Mike Nelson’s A Psychic Vacuum in New York City

Mike Nelson Installation from Creative Time

Mike Nelson on Delancey

U.K. contemporary artist, Mike Nelson, has undertaken an original installation at the Old Essex Market at 117 Delancey Street in New York City’s Lower East Side with the support of Creative Time – who promote “the most innovative art in the public realm”.

No question about it. This is the first exhibit I have seen where I had to sign a waiver vowing not to sue anybody for entering. So, in the “waiver” sense, this was innovative.

Today was the first day of the exhibition entitled “A Psychic Vacuum” which lasts until October 28. It’s free and right next to the Delancey Street stop on the F train and J/M/Z.

Thing with Light

Thing with Light

Overall, I was struck by the heat and claustrophobia of the piece. It was hot today in NYC, and with little air movement inside, I felt like a mouse trying to escape the maze. When I could take it all in, while dodging my puzzled fellow “mice,” it was hard for me to say what it all means… but I was curious enough to go through the back rooms of what was once a bustling area of commerce.

No doubt, Mike enjoyed moving us through the dimly lit maze, passed a portrait of Jackie O. and John F. Kennedy and recalling the more idealistic days of America, if not the better days of this market. Towards the end, someone called out behind me, “Oh, a darkroom.” But, I could have cared less, I’d seen enough of plaster and old cans from the 60s.

Then, the sandscape exploded on to the scene.

Sand Room

Sand Room

As a show organizer said, this sand was propped up from beneath. It was not all sand, but looked immense. It was as if the hourglass from all the years of the market’s existence had been spilled out and stored in one room.

This is another one of those New York art moments – like the time I watched the dance troupe from San Francisco dance on the grain silos in Red Hook, or Matthew Barney’s ghoulish, museum-wide exhibit at the Guggenheim many years ago.

Yeah baby, there’s a whole lot of sand in the room. It felt like an indoor NYC oasis minus the water. Well-manicured by a steadily raking attendant, I felt I could take out my sand wedge and pitch a golf ball on to the green, or throw down a towel and take in the filtered rays of sun seeping into the large room. All that was missing was water. In that it was so warm and I lacked water, ultimately, that’s why I left. I might have enjoyed exploring the ‘Habitrail’ once again but I was sweating and ‘done.’ Thanks, Mike (may the 2007 Turner Prize land gently in your lap) and Creative Time.

Window Sun

Window Sun

If you’d like to catch a chat with Mike before he heads back to the U.K., visit Kraine Theater under KBG bar at 85 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery this Monday, September 10 at 6:30 p.m.

Related Links: Lower Manhattan Cultural Council


September 8th, 2007

Entry Filed under: Music, Film, Art


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