The First Artist’s Residency at the Royal Geographical Society, London
Residncy: January 2007-May 2008
Exhibition: 4 April, 9 May 2008
Panel Discussion 9 May 2008, 6-9pm
Developed and curated by Jordan Kaplan from commissioning group Parabola in consultation with
Vandana Patel and Steve Brace at the RGS (with IBG), Nelson’s Residency began in January 2007
with investigation of over 5,000 of the Society’s maps (one of the world’s largest private collections).
Following detailed discussions with RGS Fellows and staff, Nelson’s research has focused on maps
that consider mythical places as physical locations, as well as the evolution of Western cartography
and the shifting philosophical and global perspectives of the past 1,000 years.
Nelson is interested in what he describes as the ‘Cryptosphere’, which he perceives as, ‘the sum of all
withheld and hidden information in a given system’. He has developed responses to complex mapping
methodologies that contain multiple layers of meaning through the creation of a new body of work,
specifically locating the mythological and ornamental within the physical and temporal world:
El Dorado, Utopia and Hell are addressed alongside the development of cartography as a science via
a large gallery installation in which a cartographically-inspired architectural grid attempts to contain
ambiguous ornaments that, unwilling to be held by the grid’s rigid embrace, spill out over the pavilion
A detailed publication produced by Parabola accompanies the exhibition with commissioned texts
from Dr Denis Alexander, Faraday Institute, St Edmund’s College and The Babraham Institute,
Cambridge; Prof Denis Cosgrove, Royal Holloway, University of London and Humboldt Professor at
UCLA; Dr Alessandro Scafi, Warburg Institute and University of Bologna and contemporary art
writer and critic Rebecca Geldard. Documentation and dissemination of works produced alongside
archival resources graciously loaned by the RGS (with IBG) work together to shed light on the
historical significance of, and the artist’s interest in, the mapping of myth and the unveiling of ‘fact’.
The Residency involved Year 5 pupils at Gayhurst Community School, Hackney, East London in a
series of workshops that encouraged pupils to consider issues of the built environment, the natural
world and diaspora communities, giving access to RGS maps and information in school and outings.