For “The Ebook of Spells, (a speculative fiction),” Mike Nelson has imagined a bedsit replete with a dangling iron lamp, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves stacked with numerous journey guidebooks, and a sage-green bedframe with a saggy oriental rug as a mattress in its middle. A jar full of wooden splinters and a wishbone—tokens of fine fortune—have been dispersed all through, alongside journey cash and a gemstone paperweight. Rubble, a wilted orange squash, a discarded VHS tape, and a deflated basketball full the British artist’s alchemic configuration on Webster Highway, his sixth with the gallery. Anchored in Richard Brautigan’s novel The Abortion: An Historic Romance 1966 (1971)—by which a reclusive younger man from San Francisco maintains an idiosyncratic library for undesirable tales in a equally contrived cave—this immersive abode meanders between peripatetic fantasies and encyclopedic nostalgia in an evocation of lockdown-induced claustrophobia: Every customer agrees to spend fifteen minutes locked within the small dice all by themselves.
The well-worn guidebooks, starting from the richly illustrated Dorling Kindersley editions to these of the Lonely Planets’selection, hearken again to earlier exhibitions. In 1999, Nelson established a “Vacationer Resort” at Dublin’s Douglas Hyde gallery, that includes comparable journey guidebooks and oriental rugs. A yr later, he staged a collection of shabby and vacant reception rooms for “Coral Reef” at Matt’s Gallery. Each installations interwove truth and fiction, shining a light-weight on the lives and histories tied up within the rooms’ sundry décor. Twenty-one years later, Nelson has held up one other mirror with “Ebook of Spells,” as if to query the Borgesian conceit of wandering round a as soon as acquainted room, now reconfigured and tinged with an awesome sense of nostalgia.