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Mike Nelson: Extinction Beckons

Exhibition at Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre
£10,000 awarded

Extinction Beckons presents Nelson’s large-scale installations and sculptures that draw on cultural, social and political meanings implicit in found objects and materials, creating alternate realities that are at once alienating and deeply familiar.

An old photography dark room, lit by a single red light. There is equipment for exposing and enlarging negatives on a desk, and numerous printed photos pegged to wires criss-crossing the room.

About the exhibition

Extinction Beckons staged several ambitious reincarnations of Nelson’s most iconic installations and sculptural works – including The Deliverance and the Patience (2001), Triple Bluff Canyon (2004), and Studio Apparatus for Kunsthalle Münster (2014) – many of which were shown for the first time since their original presentations.

The exhibition demonstrated Nelson’s key focus, that runs throughout his practice, on creating ‘… immersive works that operate on multiple levels […], you’re seeing and feeling one thing whilst your brain is trying to override this and tell you something else.’

Working closely with the team at Southbank Centre, Nelson concocted his unique blend of the fictitious and the recognisable out of materials scavenged from salvage yards, junk shops, auctions, flea markets, and the side of the M25 over the course of four tireless weeks.

The resulting imposing, psychologically-charged artworks opened up new worlds within the Hayward Gallery’s spaces, playing with the boundaries of space and scale, light, sound and smell. Transporting audiences into visceral, claustrophobic otherworlds, the exhibition invited viewers to arrive at their own conclusions as they journeyed through Nelson’s captivating and unnerving environments.

Installation view of Mike Nelson's 'The Amnesiacs' 1996-ongoing. Photo: Matt Greenwood. Courtesy the artist and the Hayward Gallery.
A large, white-walled gallery space has been filled with sand. Buried in the sand are several objects, including a damaged outbuilding around the size of a single car garage, old tyres, and pieces of wood.
Installation view of Mike Nelson's 'Triple Bluff Canyon' 2004 and 'M25' 2023. Photo: Matt Greenwood. Courtesy the artist and the Hayward Gallery.

About the artist

British installation artist and sculptor Mike Nelson as been nominated for the Turner Prize twice, and in 2011 was selected as the artist to represent Great Britain at the 54th Venice Biennale.

Nelson rose to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s with architecturally-scaled, labyrinthine multi-room installations that take the viewer on disorientating journeys into other worlds. Extinction Beckons is the first major survey exhibition of his work.

Video courtesy Southbank Centre.