Ahali Conversations with Can Altay podcast

Episode 22: Mike Nelson

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Mike Nelson is an artist whose influential works oscillate between salvage yards and dreamscapes. He works with things from the present and the just-past, to create these spaces, that ask you to think twice about contemporary culture, and our ways of being. In his words through situations that are on the brink of obsolescence.

Mike Nelson’s lessons on the agency and potency of objects, and his take on his own positionality as an artist; through the metaphor of sliders on an equalizer were thought-provoking. On every occasion, an artist has to decide over a multiplicity of issues, over ethics, politics, effects, income, and many other dimensions. These virtual sliders operate as part of a decision-making process, over the give and take, and to decide how to negotiate as well as reconcile our decisions.


Acclaimed artist Mike Nelson's work stems from a period of living and working in a particular location in the form of large-scale, site-specific sculptural environments. http://mikenelson.org.uk/

Protocinema is a cross-cultural art organization that commissions and presents site-aware art around the world. https://www.protocinema.org/about

PROJEKTÖR was an exhibition organized by Protocinema in 2019. Nelson combined architectural intervention, sculpture, and video across sixteen rooms of the seventh floor of a historic commercial building (Gürün Han) to reflect on the changing landscape of the city, both intimate and global. https://www.protocinema.org/exhibitions/mike-nelson

Rip Van Winkle is a short story about nostalgia by Washington Irving, published in 1819. The protagonist of the story falls into a deep slumber for two decades and wakes up to a completely different world.

Crystal Palace is a neighborhood in London that takes its name from the exhibition space designed by Joseph Paxton in 1851 to display examples of technology developed in the Industrial Revolution.

The United States Capitol attack took place in 2021 by the supporters of Donald Trump to disrupt the joint session of Congress assembled to count electoral votes that would formalize President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

Formed in 1968, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY) was a folk-rock supergroup. They were not only known for their tumultuous relationship but also for political activism.

Charles Manson is a criminal who led the infamous Manson Family in California, in the late 1960s.

Minicab was a precarious taxi service that could be booked in advance but not licensed to pick up passengers who hail it in the street. It predates and was replaced by ride-share apps.

Han is the urban version of Caravanserai, a roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from the day's journey. They could be considered commercial settlements or artisanal facilities.

Founded in 1651 by Kösem Valide Sultan, the mother of the Ottoman sultans Murat IV and Ibrahim, Büyük Valide Han is the largest historic han in Istanbul.

A darkroom is a completely dark working environment that serves to carry out tasks like processing photographic film or making prints.

Duveen (1869-1939), was a British art dealer who was highly active and influential in the 1920’s and 1930’s. His success is famously attributed to his observation that "Europe has a great deal of art, and America has a great deal of money."https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Duveen,_1st_Baron_Duveen

Henry Moore (1898-1986) was one of the most important British artists of the twentieth century and arguably the most internationally celebrated sculptor of the period. https://www.henry-moore.org/

Asset Stripper is a slang term used in a pejorative sense in the field of finances which refers to the practice of selling off a company's assets to improve returns for equity investors.

“Asset Strippers” was the title of the annual Tate Britain commission in 2019 where Mike has transformed the grand spaces of the Duveen Galleries into something between a sculpture court and a salvage yard. https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/mike-nelson

Founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. V&A Museum is the world's largest museum of applied arts, decorative arts, and design in terms of inventory. https://www.vam.ac.uk/

Nelson also has a longstanding interest and knowledge of Middle Eastern art and architecture, a topic we didn’t go much into during this conversation. Assyrian Bowl https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/W_N-94

An equalizing deck is a circuit or equipment used to adjust the volume of different frequency bands within an audio signal during the processes of sound recording or reproduction. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equalization_(audio)

The Arab Spring (Arabic: الربيع العربي) was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across much of the Arab world in the early 2010s.

Edward Kienholz (1927-1994) and Nancy Kienholz (1943-2019) were artists whose work heavily criticized the modern way of living and in particular Americana mostly through installation and sculptural works.

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov are artists whose ground (or ceiling) breaking installations were highly influential in defining the Post-Soviet cultural production with their subtle humor and captivating visual language.

Paul Thek (1933–1988) is the quintessential “artists’ artist” with his unique materiality and fragile life and oeuvre that ended up being posthumously celebrated by the following generation of artists who emerged in the 90’s.

Dieter Roth (1930–1998) was an artist best known for works made of found materials, including rotting food. In the present day, his work is carried out by his son Björn Roth.

William Franklin Culbert (1935 – 2019) was an artist who worked with and through painting, photography, sculpture, and installation as well as found and recycled materials.

Ron Haselden is an artist who works with light, sound, film, and video, often as part of architectural projects.

Richard Wilson is an artist known for his architectural sculptures and large-scale installations.

Marc Camille Chaimowicz is an artist whose cross-disciplinary work in painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, installation, furniture, lighting, ceramics, textiles, and wallpaper challenges the categorical divisions between art and design.

Robin Klassnik is the founder and director of Matt's Gallery. Founded in 1979, Matt’s Gallery is a contemporary art gallery located in London. https://www.mattsgallery.org/

Robert Smithson (1938 - 1973) is another legendary artist who is best known for his artwork Spiral Jetty (1970). Due credit should also be given to Nancy Holt (1938-2014), in creating what is known as Land Art. https://holtsmithsonfoundation.org/ is the custodian of their legacy, until 2038, when the foundation will terminate at the 100th birthday of the couple.

Hélio Oiticica (1937 - 1980) is an influential artist from Brazil known for his environments and iconic artworks: such as parangolés, wearable, experiential garments, and penetrables a series of structural works that he considers as “movable frescos on a human scale except that (most importantly) they are penetrable.”

Stanislaw Lem (1921 - 2006) was a Soviet writer and thinker whose work on futurology historically stands out because of his influential work titled Solaris (1961) thanks to director Andrei Tarkovsky's movie adaptation of the novel in 1971.

A Perfect Vacuum (1971) comprises Stanislav Lem's fictitious criticism of nonexisting books. The texts included reads as drafts of his science fiction novels, philosophical pieces across scientific topics, from cosmology to the pervasiveness of computers while others satirize and parody everything from the nouveau roman to pornography, Ulysses, authorless writing, and Dostoevsky.

First published in 1719, Robinson Crusoe is a highly influential and seminal work of literature by William Defoe It tells the story of a castaway who spends 28 years on a remote tropical desert island near the coasts of Venezuela and Trinidad, encountering cannibals, captives, and mutineers, before ultimately being rescued.

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