In 2011 the British Council presented I, Impostor, a new work by Mike Nelson conceived and created for the British Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia.
Nelson's large-scale sculptural installations immerse the viewer in an unfolding narrative which develops through a sequence of meticulously realised spatial structures. The weaving of fact and fiction are fundamental to Nelson’s practice, and his constructs are steeped in both literary and historic references, whilst drawing upon the geography and cultural context of their location.
Throughout his career, Nelson has constantly returned to and re-examined territories within his own practice, and his new exhibition for the British Pavilion followed the success of his first major solo presentation in Venice in 2001, The Deliverance and the Patience, which was shown as part of the collateral programme at the 49th edition of the Biennale.
For the British Pavilion in 2011, Nelson elected to take as his starting point another of his own key works from the past decade, Magazin: Büyük Valide Han, originally built for the 8th International Istanbul Biennial in 2003. By relocating and re-working this earlier installation for Venice, Nelson has both created a link between the two former great mercantile centres of the east-west/west-east axes, and drawn upon his own histories with the cities and their respective biennials.
Magazin: Büyük Valide Han was housed in a cell-like space within the vast complex of the Büyük Valide Han, a 17th century caravanserai situated in the Mercan area of Istanbul. It comprised a darkroom on split levels filled with black and white photographic images of the courtyards and dome structures of the exterior of the caravanserai in addition to the immediate surrounding area of the building.
Nelson has referred to the work for Istanbul as being a parasitical installation that had lodged itself into a 17th century building. Based on the photographic memory of the earlier work, with I, Impostor, Nelson not only rebuilt the original darkroom but sections of the caravanserai itself, so that now a building, from another time and place, exists inside the late 19th century British Pavilion in Venice.