A gallery turned into an apocalyptic wasteland – Mike Nelson: Extinction Beckons, currently on view at the Hayward Gallery, is a stimulating and thought-provoking exhibition that invites the viewer to explore the precarity of humanity.
Mike Nelson: Extinction Beckons brings together a selection of works from the last 30 years, reconfigured within the Hayward Gallery’s brutalist architecture. Renowned artist Mike Nelson has shown in galleries around the world, including representing Great Britain at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011. Of his works, Nelson says “My intent has always been to make immersive works. They should have a narrative, a spacial aspect, but also a psychological effect on the senses: you’re seeing and feeling one thing while your brain is trying to override this and tell you something else”.
The exhibition comprises a series of immersive installations that are constructed from found objects and salvaged materials. Designed to create a sense of disorientation and dislocation, the structures blur the boundaries between reality and fiction. Furthermore, the viewer is forced to reflect on the relationship between humans and the natural world. We are consistently reminded of our impact on the environment through Nelson’s use of discarded materials – perished rubber tires, rusted wire caging, broken machinery.
One of the most striking works in the show is ‘The Deliverance and the Patience’. The installation is a maze-like series of small rooms with several doors in each – every few steps the viewer must make a decision about which one to open next. Each room contains something slightly different, although all have a sense of being abandoned. The work is equal parts disorientating and daunting.
Mike Nelson: Extinction Beckons is a must-see exhibition for anyone interested in the intersection between contemporary art and the climate crisis. Although at times it feels a little overwhelming…sometimes even a little frightening, ultimately this expansive and intriguing exhibition is one that will stay in your memory.
Review by Amy Melling
Amy is a Curator and Creative Producer whose practice is centred around community-led arts projects. Her current research is focused on curatorial methods for exhibiting artworks outside. Amy has a keen interest in the arts and recently completed an MA in Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL.
Image: Installation view of Mike Nelson, Triple Bluff Canyon (the woodshed), 2004. Various materials. M25, 2023. Found tyres. Photo: Matt Greenwood. Courtesy the artist and the Hayward Gallery.
Mike Nelson: Extinction Beckons is showing at Hayward Gallery until 7th May 2023 and more information is available here.
Mike Nelson: Extinction Beckons is supported by the Henry Moore Foundation and the Extinction Beckons Exhibition Supporters Group: 303 Gallery, New York; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Rennie Collection, Vancouver; and those who wish to remain anonymous. The catalogue and public programme is supported by Kingston School of Art, Kingston University.