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15 Dec 2017 - 25 Feb 2018

The Aalto Natives by Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen

The Cobra Museum brings the successful Finnish pavilion The Aalto Natives from Venice to Amstelveen. The Aalto Natives by Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen is a perceptively humorous all-over installation with video, audio, light and animatronics that explores current themes such as nationalism and xenophobia. It demonstrates that humour and absurdism in art are relevant and effective instruments to critically engage with topical social issues.

The Cobra Museum of Modern Art brings the Finnish pavilion at the recent Venice Biennale to the Netherlands. The Aalto Natives is an installation with video and animatronics (moving robots) by English artist Nathaniel Mellors (1974, Doncaster) and Finnish artist Erkka Nissinen (1975, Jyväskylä), and was one of the highlights of the Biennale according to the press and public.

Mellors and Nissinen share an interest in how satire can be employed in art to critically examine today’s world. With The Aalto Natives they demonstrate that humour and absurdism in art are relevant and effective instruments to critically engage with topical social issues.


Nathaniel Mellors & Erkka Nissinen - The Aalto Natives

‘Hilarious discussion about politics, social media, and ethics ensue. If it sounds bonkers, that’s because it is - in the best possible way’ - Artnet News

The Aalto Natives is an immersive installation in which Nissinen’s intuitive, do-it-yourself approach to digital image production and intentionally naïve musicality engages in a dynamic relationship with Mellors’ erudite-absurdist video work and experience with animatronics. Topical themes such as nationalism, colonialism, xenophobia and religious disputes are criticized by means of an absurdist-satirical story about two messianic figures: the intuitive-intelligent Geb (a giant talking egg), and his naïve-rational son Atum (a talking cardboard box).

Nathaniel Mellors & Erkka Nissinen - The Aalto Natives

The highly positive reception of the installation by both press and public at the Venice Biennale shows that the work was appreciated by a global audience too, and that humour as a critical artistic tool has an important place in art today. Frieze wrote: “As we piggyback on Geb and Atum’s fact-finding mission, we meet a puppet psychologist, an eye-eating snake, and an escaping testicle, and much more, but there is sense in the senselessness, as there so often is’. Moreover, the narrative framework of nationalism and colonialism dovetails seamlessly with an international debate around identity and postcolonialism.

The Aalto Natives is also above all an overwhelming, sensory experience. The visitor is immersed in a visual spectacle, in which the artists have thought about the combination of animatronics, video, light and audio in an innovative way.

The Aalto Natives is on display at the Cobra Museum from 15 December 2017 until 25 February 2018. Then the installation travels to Finland and is showing at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki from 13 March until early September. A version of the installation will be shown as part of an exhibition of Nathaniel Mellors at the New Museum in New York.

‘A Must-See at the Venice Biennale […] From health care to herring as a satire told by an enormous talking egg’ - Huffington Post

The media about The Aalto Natives:

“…proves that contemporary art – which takes it self so seriously – can be really funny.”
Volkskrant **** (Dutch)

“Social engagement packaged as seductive and also dirty aburdism.”
Het Parool. Read at website newspaper or via Blendle (Dutch).

“…in each scene, the strange Finnish mix of earnestness, pride, self-mockery and hilarous dry humour is present”
Gonzo (circus) (Dutch)

“The story is sometimes hard to follow, but the sharp social criticism […] always hits the mark. And when the penny drops, you’ll be laughing out loud during the exposition.”
Kunstmeisjes (Dutch)

Nathaniel Mellors & Erkka Nissinen - The Aalto Natives

Nathaniel Mellors & Erkka Nissinen at the EYE Filmmuseum

9 January 2018 at 19:15 hrs

Films by Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen are the focus of a special evening organized by the EYE Filmmuseum as part of the series Eye on Art, in response to the exhibition The Aalto Natives. EYE presents a selection of films, some of which have never been shown in the Netherlands. Xander Karskens introduces the evening. He is artistic director of the Cobra Museum and curator of the Finnish pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

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