london

Mike Nelson

Matt's Gallery

Freud, in a much-cited passage from The Uncanny (1919), describes getting lost in a maze of unfamiliar city streets and returning time and again to the same place—the red-light district. The Coral Reef repeats on visitors in like fashion. Painstakingly assembled over three months by Mike Nelson, this “reef” is a claustrophobic, metaphorically (and literally) pungent warren of simulated rooms: a nightmare array of dingy paneling, broken light fixtures, lurid shades of wall paint, disintegrating carpet, and flammable-looking furniture in ripped vinyl or grimy velour. Whirring electric fans lend the rooms an air of suspended animation. In a fiendish twist, Nelson duplicates one room at another point in the maze. When this fact dawns, real panic ensues: Might all the rooms be doubles? Nelson’s rooms are mostly variations on the theme of “reception area,” subdivided by counters and equipped,

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