Artists Nathaniel Mellors (1974, UK) and Erkka Nissinen (1975, Finland) represent Finland at the 57th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia (May 13 to Nov. 26, 2017) with ‘The Aalto Natives’. Commissioned and produced by Frame Contemporary Art Finland, the exhibition is curated by Xander Karskens (1973, Netherlands), artistic director at Cobra Museum of Modern Art in Amstelveen.
Working collaboratively, the artists will transform the Pavilion of Finland - built in 1956 by architect Alvar Aalto - into an immersive, multimedia environment. The installation brings together sculptural elements, animatronics and video, which are synchronised in a dynamic choreography of dialogue and image. The exhibition focuses on various clichés surrounding Finnish history and national identity for ‘The Aalto Natives’. Taking cues from archaeology, anthropology and science fiction, short video vignettes at the core of the installation re-imagine Finnish society through the eyes of a pair of outsider figures, represented by talking animatronic puppets who, in dialogue, present a lecture. The animatronic puppets introduce a series of fast-paced video vignettes on Finnish mythology, contemporary Finnish society and their vision for the future of Finland.
Nissinen and Mellors are individually recognised for their absurd, irreverent and hilarious story-driven work; their humorous approach belies a profound understanding of contemporary issues of morality and communication. The artists met in Amsterdam during their Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten residency from 2007-8, and have been admirers of each other’s work since.
Nissinen and Mellors were selected through an Open Call process issued by Frame Contemporary Art Finland in 2016. The jury was impressed by the inventiveness of the proposal, its subversive humour, and the imaginative way it responded to the complex issue of nationhood and interdependence. “We selected the proposal because the ideas it presented were amongst the most captivating, surprising and artistically diverse. We are confident that it will generate debate and be a highly engaging experience for the audience.”