A dad and his daughters, loving life in New York City

Thursday, September 20

Mike Nelson: A Psychic Vacuum

If you ever thought it'd be cool to explore an abandoned building on the Lower East Side, but for obvious reasons—an aversion to rats, crackheads, bad smells, filth—have resisted the temptation, then I suggest you spend 30 minutes or so at some point over the next few weekends getting lost in Mike Nelson's creepy, obsessively detailed, sometimes witty, labyrinthine installation in the old Essex Street Market, A Psychic Vacuum.

Now, there are no great artistic epiphanies to be had here—Nelson used found objects from all over the city to decorate the nearly 6,500 square-feet space, the broader significance of which for the most part escaped me—and some of the assemblages feel forced.

But the dead ends, the claustrophobic corridors and dimly-lit rooms, the pallor of dust and aura of decrepitude all definitely gnaw at you. And the art work's final space packs a brilliant visceral punchline.

Although my courageous daughters probably would have gotten a kick out of the work's maze-like setup, I think the bones, the grime and the suggestion of violence might have freaked them out a little, and so I'm glad I decided to go alone.

Mike Nelson's A Psychic Vacuum runs through October 28th. The installation is open from noon until 6:00, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The entrance is on Delancey Street, just east of Essex. Admission is free: you sign a waiver in an open storefront, and then enter through the boarded-up Chinese restaurant.

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