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Corinna Spencer

Coral Reef

Mike Nelson: The Coral Reef (Room 28)
Tate Britain
London
SW1

    To enter Mike Nelson’s The Coral Reef is to enter a parallel world. Rooms, doors, passageways, all bear traces of habitation and decay. Different, often conflicting, ideologies or belief systems are presented through these traces. The implied occupants of Nelson’s world appear to be detached from the political and economic centre, left to exist at the margins of globalised, capitalist society. The work’s title alludes to this collection of complex, fragile belief systems that form an obscured layer – a coral reef – beneath the ‘ocean surface’ of prevailing orthodoxies.
    Nelson’s absent protagonists occupy positions of resistance in the face of dominant ideologies. However, Nelson perhaps conveys a sense of inevitable futility about such resistance. In his words, he wants the spectator to feel ‘lost in a world of lost people’.(Tate)
    click on the images to enlarge

The door is dirty, cheap and was once white, a while ago: Welcome to the taxi rank, the starting point for a journey to the underground. Everyone is here, I just keep missing them, as if they are always two rooms ahead of me. I dare not think of them being two rooms behind me, my pace picks up.

Its dark, its raw but it could also be oh so real, as disorientating as this instillation is, its also totally recognizable, all aspects of the lives lived here I have imagined, read about. Here they are magnified and pushed together. Am I relieved that I can escape it, or do I want to take a seat…….

Tweets from within: Sometimes the initial reaction says it better, if crudely (forgive me, it was my birthday).
@Corr_ Omg!! Coral reef at tate, we had a play on the space invaders and then the sig other suggested something rude.
@Corr_ Actually its bloody awesome and creepy and cool and I love it, its a bit sexy too. (Coral reef, tate)

Coral reef was exhibited at Matts Gallery in 2000

3 Responses


  1. Megs

    I didn’t think it was possible, but I am now even more confused now I have seen the pictures of the “coral reef”.

    Odd way of describing it..which I still don’t quite get.
    Mind you, lots of little niches in one big habitat, I shall put it that way it’s less confusing to my brain. And the space invaders sounds like fun.

    Thank you for posting this.


  2. corinna

    Coral reef: where all manner of sea life make their home. Much like the instillation above, perhaps.


  3. criticismism » Blog Archive » Mike Nelson, The Coral Reef (2000)

    […] Unsurprisingly, this is one of the most blogged about pieces of art I have come across. For some good photos, check out Corinna Spencer’s. […]

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