In the mid 1990s Mike Nelson invented the Amnesiacs, a non-existent biker gang composed of Gulf War veterans. With the artist the gang made work through ‘flashbacks’ – ideas that recognise no limits, providing a library of information that became the basis of many of his constructions of that period.
Just as Soviet writers once used the genre of science-fiction to bypass the censors, Nelson’s Amnesiacs initially gave him the mechanism to circumvent the prevailing taste of art production and criticism which had emerged from a period of intense theorising in the 1980s. Nelson favours intuition over rational interpretation, making work that forces us to complete it by connecting our knowledge and experience to the forms he and his mythical associates present.
Here, Nelson turns once more to the Amnesiacs for their help in building a shrine. The materials and references used to construct it, provided by further ‘flashbacks’, are elevated by their devotional context yet remain largely indefinable. As with his previous work, the use of entrances, exits and doorways is crucial in the metaphoric connotations that they bring. The sand functions in a similar way, alluding to the vast expanses of other possible places, its imagery reflected into infinity through the mirrors which enclose it. The sand and mirrors perhaps bring about the work’s only recognisable allusion, echoing the minimalist cubes of Robert Smithson and Robert Morris. Yet where their mirrors looked outwards, those of the shrine look towards each other with an introspective ambiguity.