Artists Erkka Nissinen and Nathaniel Mellors have been selected for the Pavilion of Finland at the 57th Venice Biennale with their proposal The Aalto Natives. The exhibition is curated by Xander Karskens.
The jury was impressed by the inventiveness of the proposal, its subversive humour, and the imaginative way it responds 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.’
The exhibition will transform the Pavilion of Finland into an immersive environment through a multimedia installation comprising video, sculpture and a talking egg.
‘Thank you Finland and the jury and team Aalto Natives. I feel humbled to be able to work with such seasoned professionals as Nathaniel, Xander and the people at Frame. I look forward to what I am sure will be a largely positive experience’, says Erkka Nissinen.
‘I am delighted to have this opportunity to collaborate with Erkka Nissinen. We have had a huge amount of fun developing the proposal and I look forward to carrying that through into the finished work. My thanks to all the members of the jury, Frame and our curator Xander Karskens’, says Nathaniel Mellors.
Erkka Nissinen (1975, Helsinki) has over the years created a series of video works and installations featuring a resourceful do-it-yourself deployment of both vernacular and digital tools (such as hand puppeteering and crude 3D animation) to craft an absurdist comical-philosophical universe. Here, topics such as social interaction, sexuality, violence and the origins of human consciousness and creativity are addressed in cartoonesque narratives populated by a cast of hyperbolic characters, often performed by the artist himself. Nissinen lives and works in New York, Helsinki and Amsterdam.
Nathaniel Mellors (1974, UK) is an Amsterdam and Los Angeles based artist working across a wide range of media. His absurdist drama series Ourhouse (2010–ongoing) about an eccentric British family and its entertainingly erratic interaction with reality, language, and power, has been central to a host of international exhibitions. In these exhibitions, video is typically presented alongside sculptural work, in which the ideas and characters present in the video’s narrative are further elaborated. Mellors’ work was part of the 2011 54th Venice Biennale’s main exhibition ILLUMInations, curated by Bice Curiger.
Nissinen and Mellors met during their residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in 2007. They have been fervent admirers of each other’s work since. The Aalto Natives is their first joint exhibition project.
Curator Xander Karskens (1973, the Netherlands), has worked on solo exhibitions with both Mellors and Nissinen in the past, in his capacity of curator of contemporary art at Frans Hals Museum | De Hallen Haarlem in the Netherlands, which holds works of both artists in its collection. Among other publications, Karskens co-edited Book A or Megacolon or For and Against Language (2010) by Nathaniel Mellors. He was the curator of international exhibitions and projects like Ghost in the system – scenarios for resistance at NCCA Moscow (2013) and FOCUS: the Netherlands at ARCOmadrid in 2012.
‘It is a great honour and privilege to be allowed the opportunity to develop a project for Finland within the context of national representation on a global stage, and to work with two of the most imaginative artists of their generation. It feels urgent and fitting to address the complexities of the biennial context, and the broader debates around nationality and (inter)dependence, by way of artistic practices in which the subversive and critical potential of humour is explored, that powerful affective force that is capable of opening up new perspectives on our existence beyond knowledge or rationality. The exhibition will provide a strong sense of discovery, a micro-universe in which two idiosyncratic artistic voices will re-examine Finland’s past, and speculate on its possible futures’, Xander Karskens says.
Frame issued an open call for the Pavilion of Finland at the 57th edition of Venice Biennale. The six-member jury included Curator Katerina Gregos, Professor Sarat Maharaj, Curator Taru Elfving, Leevi Haapala, Director of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Curator Maaretta Jaukkuri and Artist Patrik Sőderlund. The jury was chaired by Frame’s Director Raija Koli.
Frame received 96 proposals of which the jury selected a shortlist of four very different and extremely interesting works. The other shortlisted artists and curators were Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen with Curator Alexandra MacGilp, Mika Taanila with Curator Joasia Krysa and Pilvi Takala with Curator Antonia Majaca.
Commissioner and partners
The exhibition in the Pavilion of Finland is commissioned and produced by Frame Visual Art Finland. Frame, an advocate for Finnish contemporary art, supports international initiatives, facilitates professional partnerships, and encourages critical development of the field through grants, visitor programme and residencies, seminars and talks, exhibition collaborations and network platforms.
The exhibition is supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art is Frame’s main partner at the Venice Biennale.
Venice Biennale, founded in 1895, is the oldest and largest contemporary art biennale in the world. In 2015, 88 countries exhibited there. Finland is one of 29 countries with a national pavilion in Giardini, the historic park of the Biennale. More than 500,000 people visited the Biennale in 2015.