Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Neighborhood, objectified

First you sign a release form, indemnifying Creative Time against, among other mishaps, death. Well, um... okay. One enters through a narrow doorway, opening to the remains of a Chinese restaurant. Dishes are stacked on the linoleum counters. Collections of dirt edge the tile floor. It's disgusting. Past the kitchen and through a heavy door is the crux of the project--a maze of small, enclosed spaces (claustrophobic if you don't live in Manhattan), most with more than one entrance: tableaux of decay, "fictionally derelict" vestiges of the neighborhood: a delapidated tattoo parlor; elsewhere a dead end displaying a trio of baseball bats, on the floor a crumpled straitjacket. Got it.
A room leads to a hallway, there's a plethora of doors. You enter and exit (forget that ball of string) and pop into another mysterious, dusty, artifact-sporting space. Religeous overtones abound, as do bars (the kind you imbibe in). At one point a room is duplicated: exact same vestibule (different dust distribution) but its other doors are locked. The confusion is intentional. About face, and further exploration. More doors, more same faces, looks of complicity. Paging Feydeau!

The whole frustrating mess is worth it just to emerge/at last one comes upon a vast, peeling, lofty space, a skylit repository of...80 tons of sand,...ascending sand. A celebration of mass, a gift of light and space. The sound is lovely. The swish of the grains underfoot, the thrum of traffic, voices on Essex. A quiet late afternoon light augmented by two dim fluorescents in the background. Essentially, the sand conceals the built rooms. And what a wonderful metaphor for this neighborhood: an urban sphere as sand -- a constant, shifting; glass, devitrified. Cycles.

Mike Nelson "A Psychic Vacuum"
117 Delancey St. (at Essex St.)
til Oct. 28
Friday-Sunday 12-6, free

photo by Charlie Samuels, courtesy Creative Time


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