British, b. 1967

Eighty circles through Canada (the last possessions of an Orcadian mountain man), 2013

35mm slide projection (eighty slides), 50mm lens, ply-driftwood,
plywood sheets, metal chains, and the remaining personal effects of
Erlend Williamson (deceased)
Shelf and screen: 9 ft. x 13 ft. 6 in. x 15 in. (274.3 x 411.5 x 38.1 cm)
Courtesy the artist and 303 Gallery, New York

Driving from Vancouver to Banff in the Canadian Rockies, Mike Nelson first conceived of Eighty circles through Canada (the last possessions of an Orcadian mountain man) in response to the death of his close friend, Erlend Williamson, whose lifelong love of the outdoors was inspired in part by his ancestry in the ruggedly beautiful Orkney Islands of Scotland. In memory of Erlend, who died in a mountaineering accident in the Scottish Highlands in 1996, as well as a nod to British Land art, Nelson photographed the stone circles of abandoned fires in the Canadian landscape— eighty in total, enough to fill the carousel of a slide projector. These images are projected against the back of a free-standing set of shelves, fashioned from driftwood collected from the Pacific Northwest coast, that displays Williamson’s last possessions. Nelson reflects on the ways in which humans make their mark on the landscape—fire being the most primal—and juxtaposes the loss of the natural world with the intimate grief associated with the death of a friend. This is the first occasion this work has been exhibited in the United States.

Installation view Tramway, Glasgow, 2014
© Mike Nelson. Courtesy Tramway, Glasgow; 303 Gallery, New York; Galleria Franco Noero, Turin; Matt’s Gallery, London; and neugerriemschneider, Berlin.
Photo: Keith Hunter