Venice Biennale 2017

Pavilion of Finland at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia: The Aalto Natives by Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen

Pavilion of Finland presents The Aalto Natives, a collaboration between artists Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Individually known for their irreverent and often comedic story-driven work, Mellors and Nissinen focus on various clichés surrounding Finnish history and national identity for The Aalto Natives.

Conflating ideas and tropes from archaeology, anthropology and science fiction, the work re-imagines Finnish society through the eyes of two messianic outsider figures, Geb and Atum, who are represented by talking animatronic puppets.

The story presents Geb and Atum as terraforming higher beings, who re-visit the Finland they have created millions of years earlier, and who try to make sense of the culture that has developed in the meantime. They are engaged in a dialogue in which they introduce a series of video vignettes on Finnish creation mythology, contemporary Finnish society and their vision for the future of Finland.

Within this narrative framework, Mellors and Nissinen playfully critique religion and the nature of human existence, to reveal the systemic flaws at the heart of cultures dominated by rationalism and the fetishization of progress.


Various visual idioms – including HD videos of old school Muppet-style puppeteering, 3D CGI, and hand-drawn stop-motion animation – conjure the universe and psychology of their characters. These different media and technologies are synchronized into a dynamic and immersive theatrical experience.

Curator Xander Karskens says “The Aalto Natives explores themes such as the invention of the nation state and the origins of culture by way of absurdist satire. Dressing its intellectual ambitions in deceivingly comical gear, the work addresses the complex challenges our globalized world faces today, like neoconservative nationalism, intolerance, and class polarization.”

The installation is accompanied by The Aalto Natives – A Transcendental Manual, a publication designed by Studio Remco van Bladel, Amsterdam, and co-published with Mousse. The book (ISBN 9788867492169) is distributed by Mousse, and can be ordered by mail from Frame Contemporary Art Finland at

Partners and supporters

The main partner for The Aalto Natives is the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, alongside Visit Finland and the City of Jyväskylä. The main supporter of The Aalto Natives is the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland, together with the Mondriaan Fund and the Saastamoinen Foundation.

The Aalto Natives is supported by Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Jack Bakker, THE EKARD COLLECTION, the Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture AVEK, Suomi Finland 100, Dommering Collection, Frans Hals Museum | De Hallen Haarlem, Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Embassy of Finland in Rome, MONITOR, Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Stigter van Doesburg, The Box, and Matt’s Gallery.


Read Tom Jeffreys‘ article The Aalto Natives: an interview with Erkka Nissinen and Nathaniel Mellors

Take a sneak peek at The Aalto Natives exhibition at the 57th Venice Biennale

Order the exhibition catalogue The Aalto Natives – A Transcendental Manual by Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen


Exhibition catalogue: The Aalto Natives – A Transcendental Manual by Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen

The manual accompanies the installation The Aalto Natives realised for the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia by Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen. It reveals the full story of Geb and Atum, two terraforming mythical creatures who are floating through space in a vessel shaped not unlike the structure of the Aalto Pavilion.

Exercising the all-encompassing knowledge that egg-borne mystical beings are typically blessed with, Geb and Atum mediate between the banal reality of objects and creatures, and the infinitely more advanced structures that lie beyond it. Along their mission of rebuilding Finland Geb, the wise father, and his rational-empirical son Atum, struggle to deal with the persistent faults, glitches, and transcendental mistakes they encounter in the formative stages of New Finland’s national development.

In the experience of Geb and Atum, culture presents itself as an eternal feedback loop of trial and error, a scatological dialectic of production and consumption, of shiny façades and vulgar essences, of bad mantras and glitchy technology, of sophisticated neanderthals and cosmic ducks. In all its grotesque display of failing social contracts and polarizing populism, it is surprisingly similar to the world we are living in today.

In short, this manual will guide you towards a more transcendental understanding of the human spirit. Please use it.

The Aalto Natives – A Transcendental Manual is designed by Studio Remco van Bladel, Amsterdam and published by Mousse and Frame Contemporary Art Finland.

Order now from Mousse Publishing

The Aalto Natives to be exhibited at the Cobra Museum and Kiasma after Venice

Aalto Natives Venice Biennale Finland production image Erkka Nissinen Nathaniel Mellors

The Aalto Natives installation will be seen both in the Netherlands and Finland right after  the Biennale ends in November. In addition to being presented at the Cobra Museum in Amstelveen in the Netherlands in December 2017, The Aalto Natives will be included as part of a major exhibition featuring Erkka Nissinen and Nathaniel Mellors at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki in spring 2018.

Open Call

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 ElfvingLeevi Haapala, Director of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Curator Maaretta Jaukkuri and artist Patrik Söderlund. 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 MacGilpMika Taanila with Curator Joasia Krysa and Pilvi Takala with Curator Antonia Majaca.

Nordic Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale

The exhibition Mirrored will be presented in the 2017 edition of the Nordic Pavilion at the 57th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia. Mirrored is a group exhibition featuring works by six artists from different generations: Siri Aurdal, Nina Canell, Charlotte Johannesson, Jumana Manna, Pasi “Sleeping” Myllymäki, and Mika Taanila.

“The artists in Mirrored present a mapping of connections that override the national and regional boundaries, and instead track a more multi-faceted view of how artistic practice may connect,” says curator Mats Stjernstedt.

The exhibition Mirrored attempts to avoid a topical approach, to focus on challenging a self-image reflected in, or stereotypes projected on, the Nordic countries. Mirrored thus suggest a “placeless place”, to borrow Guiliana Bruno’s allegory on mirrors.

Siri Aurdal (b. 1937), Charlotte Johannesson (b. 1943), and Pasi “Sleeping” Myllymäki (b. 1950) are innovators who, to some extent, have created and articulated the artistic realms they later came to work within. All three artists can be described as atypical for the Nordic Pavilion’s extended architecture, as much landscape and outdoor experience as an enclosed space. Their works are examples of urban art and urbanity that was ahead of its time in exploring industrial material, digital space, or design experiments with moving images. Aurdal’s module-based sculptures challenge the sculpture medium and establish new premises for it.

Johannesson took her cue from traditional textile crafts and translated the logical setup of tapestries into computer-based pixels. Before giving up his film practice, Myllymäki produced forty-four super-8 films from 1976 to 1985; these films explore a wide range of elements from graphic design to performative actions.

A similar interest in urban subject matter, expressed, for instance, through material transformation or  political content, intersects the works of the following artists; Mika Taanila (b. 1965) is primarily recognised for producing temporal artworks in film, video and sound. For the present exhibition, Taanila uses montage technique to create a cut-out project in cinematic literature. Nina Canell’s (b. 1979) experimental mode of relating to sculpture and installation, considers the place and displacement of energy. However, like Taanila’s film and sound work, they have a temporal quality, as Canell converts sculpture’s often fixed form into open-ended processes. The works of Jumana Manna (b.1987) explores how power is articulated through relationships, often focusing on the body and materiality in relation to narratives of nationalism, and histories of place. In her sculptural work, Manna indirectly unfolds representation, creating a visual language of absence and substitutes.


Read more about the artists behind The Aalto NativesErkka Nissinen and Nathaniel Mellors.


Besides the national pavilion, designed by architect Alvar Aalto, Finland participates in the Nordic Pavilion alongside Norway and Sweden.


Venice Biennale, founded in 1895, is the oldest and largest contemporary art biennale in the world. Finnish artists have participated in the biennale for over a hundred years.