Venice Biennale 2017

Artists Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen will present their first collaboration, The Aalto Natives, in the Finnish Pavilion at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Opening on 13 May, the exhibition is the flagship contemporary art event included in Finland’s official centenary programme. Its patron is Mrs Jenni Haukio, the spouse of the President of Finland.   


The Aalto Natives explores national identity

Aalto Natives Atum Finland Venice Biennale Production Image Erkka Nissinen Nathaniel Mellors

Individually known for their irreverent and often comedic story-driven work, in which a humorous approach deceivingly belies a profound inquiry into contemporary issues of morality and power, Mellors and Nissinen will focus on various clichés surrounding Finnish history and national identity in The Aalto Natives.

The installation will be conceived for the architectural and ideological context of the Finnish Pavilion, designed by architect Alvar Aalto in 1956. Conflating ideas and tropes from archaeology, anthropology and science fiction, it will re-imagine Finnish society.

“The Aalto Natives explores themes such as the invention of national identity and the origins of culture by way of absurdist satire. Dressing its intellectual ambitions in purposefully silly gear, it both addresses the complex challenges our globalized world faces today, and pokes a cheeky kind of fun at the political correctness of its discourse,” says curator Xander Karskens.

In The Aalto Natives, the artists, who share an interest in the capacity of absurdism and transgression to critique power structures and the status quo, bring together Nissinen’s intuitive, do-it-yourself attitude to image production and his penchant for naïve musicality, with Mellors’ writing-based approach to filmmaking, and integration of sculpture.

“We wanted to take a cosmic perspective on nationalism — a comic-cosmic perspective on national identity, creation mythology, transnational movement, bureaucracy and class & racial stereotyping. We started with the idea of creation mythology – it seemed both absurd and necessary. We took a trip to the Ateneum in Helsinki, looked at  the Kalevala paintings and talked about the role of the egg-laying duck. We realized that Finland is part of a broader genus of egg-based civilizations,” say the artists.


The 57th Venice Biennale opens on 13 May

Venice Biennale Finland photo Frame Contemporary Art Finland Katja Losonen


The Venice Biennale, located in the Giardini and Arsenale directly in the historic centre of Venice, will open to the public on 13 May. The Art Biennale, which rotates with the Architecture Biennale every other year, is expected to attract approximately half a million visitors. Along with the national exhibitions, the Biennale hosts a large main exhibition of 120 artists in the Italian Pavilion. This year the main exhibition Viva Arte Viva is curated by Christine Macel, Chief Curator of Centre Pompidou in Paris.

“The Venice Biennale is the oldest and one of the most prestigious international exhibitions of contemporary art, which always manages to capture the zeitgeist of the world in a magical way. The Aalto Natives exhibition is by far the most international production we have ever seen in the Finnish Pavilion. With their very special take on the global state of affairs, Erkka Nissinen and Nathaniel Mellors will provide us with a viewpoint like no other,” says Raija Koli, Director of Frame and the commissioner of the exhibition.


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.


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


Photos: Ugo Carmeni and Katja Lösönen / Frame Contemporary Art Finland

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.