STALKING AMERICAN STUDENTS THROUGH A MIKE NELSON INSTALLATION

25 Nov

The installation in question was ‘The Coral Reef’ and the students in question were traipsing dutifully but warily through one of Nelson’s characteristic labyrinths of old doors, grotty vestibules, vacated office spaces and the like. Opening a door, I found myself almost literally nose to nose with three of these overfed children wearing adult bodies. They looked at me in horror for a moment. Incidentally, I didn’t look particularly horrifying. No more than usual, anyway. They just seemed to be noticing for the first time that other people in London actually existed as independently willed entities and not just as compliant, facilitating waiters or hotel receptionists. Then I moved past them and out of the room. The students remained rooted to the spot and silent until they thought I was gone, then one of them exclaimed “Hey, there’s a guy in here!”– half in indignation, half in warning to the others (I think there were ten or so in total) and entirely inaccurately since I was no longer in the room with him.

So from that point on I enjoyed the installation even more by creeping around so as to appear unexpectedly behind them, making doors groan ominously, whistling eerie tunes or skittering across a doorway at the periphery of their vision, horror movie style. Of course I could always tell where they were because American tourists seem physiologically incapable of lowering their voices to levels considered acceptable to Europeans or indeed of even walking as quietly as Europeans do; for American youths this goes double or triple. They do deserve some credit for being in an art gallery, though, instead of clogging up the pavement outside the Houses of Parliament or having lunch at an Angus Steak House or doing any of the other stupid, unimaginative nonsense that American tourists do in London. I’ll give them that.

Their clueless presence greatly enhanced my enjoyment of ‘The Coral Reef’. Whether they enjoyed the experience quite to the extent that I did is another matter. Call me sadistic, but to be honest if I thought they did enjoy being stalked it would kind of spoil the memory of it for me.

Now I’ve written this, one of them will probably sue me for causing intentional psychological distress and giving them persistent nightmares about scary English men looming at them out of cupboards.

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