Mike Nelson


The Deliverance and The Patience

9 June to end September 2001

The Deliverance and The Patience is a work, commissioned by Peer, installed in a large disused brewery building on Giudecca in Venice as part of the 2001 Biennale.

Nelson builds large scale environments - theatrical, yet seemingly real, elaborate and intensely engaging. They are also enormously time consuming to construct. This installation was built over two months and filled an empty 2,600 square feet space with 16 rooms, a mezzanine, and 190 running feet of corridor.

Since his widely acclaimed installation Coral Reef at Matt's Gallery in early 2000, Nelson has become regarded as one of Britain's most interesting and exciting emerging artists. The extraordinary physical, geographical, historical and architectural challenges that Venice offers both endorses and questions the theatricality and magic that exists so strongly in his work. As Jonathan Jones remarks, "As Nelson's architectural installations become ever more grandiose you begin to wonder if it is his ultimate intention to build a work of art so vast that it consumes the reality around it." It could be argued that Venice itself is an immense art work that Nelson's hermetic yet enter-able world exists in bizarre relation to.

The title of this commission, The Deliverance and The Patience, refers to two galleon ships that sailed from Bermuda to Virginia in the 18th Century. Like most of Nelson's work, this installation is steeped in both literary and historical reference. The intricate scenarios he creates are played out by his fictional constructs, but are also enacted by the audience as we make our journey through the labyrinth.

Mike Nelson has written:
In the introduction to Cities of the Red Night William Burroughs tells the tale of Captain Mission and his doomed utopian colony of Libertatia on Madagascar in the 17th Century. Had it not been destroyed by natives, but flourished so encouraging others to establish similar communities across the globe, Burroughs argues that the communications network of Mission's pirate routes could have become a viable alternative to, and undermine the capitalist, imperialist systems which continue to prevail today.

Built into, and within, the existing three sections and mezzanine level of the old brewery, a lattice work of rooms and corridors will be constructed. A redundant warehouse occupies part of the first section, reaffirming and exaggerating the building's identity. A partition wall of wood planks, containing two doors, cuts across the space; behind the first door, one narrative journey, through the second, another. Two worlds run parallel to one another, sometimes alongside, sometimes leap-frogging, until they meet at the junction of the second and third sections. Here a third route is offered - a door to a staircase leading to the mezzanine, which offers an overview of the exterior of the construction thereby dismantling the original two fictions that cross, merge, and disintegrate within the physical structure.

Others have taken this route, but you stand alone witnessing the fakery of their fictive journeys. Behind you a third fiction unfolds...

You leave retracing your original steps, re-reading the scenario backwards with the perspective of the third fiction fresh in your head, knowing you are running alongside the parallel world of the other narrative.

Mike Nelson is represented by:
Matt's Gallery, London

The Deliverance and The Patience was commissioned and produced by Peer, London, and presented in collaboration with Nuova Icona, Venice.
With thanks to the construction team: Kieren Beattie and Paul Carter.
We gratefully acknowledge the support of The Henry Moore Foundation and the British Council.