Mike Nelson: A Psychic Vacuum


At a time when modern high-rise condos are transforming much of NYC's landscape, it's more and more important to preserve what makes the city unique. U.K. artist Mike Nelson embraces this sentiment with his first major installation in the U.S., “A Psychic Vacuum,†presented in conjunction with Creative Time.

Imagine a derelict building located in Manhattan's Lower East Side—former home to the bustling Essex Street Market and soon to be hot real estate commodity—its neglected innards a history lesson unraveled beneath peeling layers of paint and gleaned through the things left behind, disparate objects as easily rescued from your grandparent's attic as from the local dump. Here, Nelson gathers the clutter into meticulously crafted environments to form his dusty homage to the vanishing past.

Wandering along a seemingly endless labyrinth of dimly lit passageways through ranks of mismatched doors, the audience is transported into Nelson's shadowy world of back alley dentists, gypsy fortune tellers and blue collar VFW bars. With each turn, you seesaw between the role of fascinated explorer and anxious interloper simultaneously anticipating and dreading the anonymous occupants' return.

All of Nelson's carefully selected details create a running narrative that at once interprets the (now endangered) character of the neighborhood as a relic forgotten as the days pass by, while at the same time revering it as a still vital participant in the flow of daily life happening on these streets.

With curiosity and persistence, you will finally emerge from the simulated catacombs into the light of day, only to be confronted by the biggest revelation of the entire journey…but some secrets are best revealed firsthand. The show is open Friday through Sunday from 12-6pm and admission is free.

A Psychic Vacuum
8 September-28 October 28 2007
The Old Essex Street Market
117 Delancey Street
New York, NY 10002 map

Image via This Week in NY

by Scott Lachut