“All of these things (creation and national identity myths) are just about people generating little stories to entertain and manipulate people.” Nathaniel Mellors.
Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen’s film The Aalto Natives (2017) is a narrative multimedia installation offering an immersive theatrical experience around nationalism and identity. Finnish national characteristics and creation myths are explored and exploded in exuberant and irreverent style in an hour-long piece that plays on several screens around the Aalto pavilion, and incorporates dialogue between two sculptural animatronic figures, Geb and Atum, one of which is a large, talking egg. They play two terraforming aliens who revisit the Finland they created millions of years earlier to try to make sense of the culture.
It is very much a homemade production: the pair built their own film sets in six weeks, in Mellors’ studio in Los Angeles, and made all their own puppets. They have used “more or less every kind of puppetry in this piece”, according to Nissinen, including claymation, stop-motion hand-drawn animation, CGI and hand-puppetry. The puppetry and animation provide a deceptively lighthearted, satirical context within which to interrogate serious issues of globalisation, shifting borders, racism, migration and national identity. ‘All of these things (creation and national identity myths) are just about people generating little stories to entertain and manipulate people,’ says Mellors.
The curator is Xander Karskens.
Nathaniel Mellors (b1974, Doncaster) and Erkka Nissinen (b1975, Jyväskylä) have established both solo and collaborative projects since meeting each other during a residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam in 2007. Mellors, who was awarded the Contemporary Art Society Prize in 2014, is now based in Los Angeles, where he recently had a solo exhibition: Prequel Dump, The Box, Los Angeles (2016). His work was also included in the main 2011 Venice Biennale exhibition, ILLUMInations. Nissinen was awarded the Illy Prize at Art Rotterdam in 2011, and the AVEK Prize for media art in 2013. Solo exhibitions include God or Terror or Retro Dog, at De Hallen Haarlem (2015), and Erkka Nissinen, at Jyväskylä Art Museum, Jyväskylä (2015).
Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen: The Aalto Natives
Pavilion of Finland, Giardini, Venice
13 May – 26 November 2017
Interview by VERONICA SIMPSON
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY
To the Finland Station and Back: RUSSIA!
The same may be true of Russian art, as anyone who was lucky enough to see the recent exhibition, 'RUSSIA!', in New York from 16 September 2005 to 11 January 2006 might attest. The exclamation point says it all. It is a tough task to occupy that vast parking garage on Fifth Avenue known as the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum. Only an exhibition of the size and ambition of 'RUSSIA!' fills and fulfills it.
Axel Antas: Nature of Things/Marijke van Warmerdam: First Drop
During September it has been interesting to find two exhibitions, one in London and a second in Edinburgh, in which the artists individually focus on aspects of landscape art. At the Rokeby Gallery in Store Street, Finnish-born artist Axel Antas, who now lives and works in London, has revealed an oeuvre that is inherently multidisciplinary, ranging from drawing and photography through to video.
West Meets East in a DADAdventure
Just as the extensive exhibit, 'DADA', which revisited the movement, closed at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, a small but appealing coda is being presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York. According to Corina Suteu, director of the Institute, 'DADA ... born Romania' is a direct response to 'DADA', which premiered in February 2006 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and closed on 11 September at MoMA. 'DADA' proposed both Zurich and New York as the birthplaces of a phenomenon that claimed to have no boundaries or limitations and was, in fact, a truly international movement.
Nordic Dawn: Modernism's Awakening in Finland 1890-1920
This timely exhibition and catalogue can be accessed in Europe until 26 January 2006. It is timely because it appropriately adjusts the balance of influences upon Finland at this crucial period and thoroughly and effectively reviews the special influence that Finnish art gave to the wider European spectrum. Stephan Koja, an expert on Gustav Klimt, is currently a curator at the Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere Vienna and co-ordinates important contributory essays from a wide range of Finnish scholars.
Book review: Pallasmaa phenomenon
Juhani Pallasmaa, the Finnish architect and theorist, has in the current period entering the twenty-first century become a major protagonist in the revision of modernism, and hence of postmodernism. To many architects today he has, through his lectures in China, Europe and the United States, provided a template for thought hitherto in urgent need.