Erkka Nissinen (1975, Jyväskylä, Finland) 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.
Nissinen looks for anomalies, for moments of instability or failure, and tries to put pressure on fixed assumptions. In his videos and performances the artist reflects on our fragmented contemporary existence by negotiating the gap between the real and the virtual. Cultural dislocation, failing social interactions, and semantic misunderstandings are at the core of Nissinen’s narratives. His videos’ dialogues derive their comic quality from linguistic confusion, the provocative exploitation of cultural and gender clichés, and the banal treatment of abstract philosophical concepts. Nissinen’s protagonists find themselves perpetually stuck in a digitally enhanced environment that imposes impenetrable and nonsensical power structures, forcing them to engage in comic violence, dwell in foolish naïveté, or resign in dull complacency.
For his recent work, the artist uses palindrome titles, like God or terror or retro dog, referring to the cyclic, from-beginning-to-end-and-back-ideas featuring in many of his works. From a visual standpoint Nissinen’s video work is stunningly resourceful: he combines a clumsy DIY acting technique and the glossy imagery of HD video and computer animation to create an eccentric and inimitable mix.
In 2011 Rotterdam Art Fair Nissinen was awarded with the acclaimed Illy Prize. In 2013, he received the AVEK Prize for media art. Nissinen has studied in The Slade School of Fine Art in London and gained MFA degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, Finland in 2001. In 2007 and 2008 he attended a residency at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam.
Recent solo exhibitions include: God or Terror or Retro Dog, De Hallen, Haarlem (2015); Mikä on yhteisö?, Sorbus, Helsinki (2015), Vantaa, Hordaland Art Centre, Bergen (2015); Erkka Nissinen, Jyväskylä Art Museum, Jyväskylä, FI (2015); Polis X, Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam, NL (2011).
The recent group exhibitions include: Pretty Straighforward, Neuer Kunstverein Wien, Austria (2015); 7th Turku Biennial, The Unexpected Guest, Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Turku, FI (2015); The Varieties, Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston, Lancashire, GB, (2015); La La La Human Steps – Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, NL (2015); Superficial Hygiene, De Hallen Haarlem, Netherlands (2014); Projections, Rottend Art Fair, Netherlands (2014), Ten Million Rooms of Yearning. Sex in Hong Kong, Para/Site Art Space, Hong Kong, CN; The Invisible Lady, Amos Anderson Art Museum, Helsinki (2013); Erkka Nissinen and Nathaniel Mellors, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, NL (2013).
Nathaniel Mellors (1974, Doncaster, UK) is an Amsterdam and Los Angeles based artist working across a wide range of media. His irreverent, absurd and hilarious videos, sculptures, performances and writings challenge notions of taste, morality, and intelligence. 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.
Mellors’ work often takes the form of absurdist fantasy used to address serious themes. His film The Sophisticated Neanderthal Interview (2014), produced in collaboration with Commonwealth Projects, features an interview between a naive contemporary young man (Truson, a character from Ourhouse) and an apparently real Neanderthal man.
Mellors script-writing is in a long-standing reciprocal relationship with sculpture and mediating technologies. He writes and produces film and video with a recurrent group of actor-collaborators. Mellors is also an advisor at the Rijkskademie, Amsterdam and a Senior Lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University, in the U.K. He studied at the University of Oxford‘s Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, the Royal College of Art and the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam. In 2014 Mellors was awarded the UK Contemporary Art Society Prize. In 2011 he was the recipient of the Cobra Museum Amstelveen’s Cobra Art Prize. In 2013-14 he was artist-in-residence at HAMMER Museum, Los Angeles and MONASH, Melbourne, Australia.
Recent solo exhibitions include: The Box Gallery, Los Angeles (2016); NEW_CAVE_ART_NOW, Stigter van Doesburg (2014); The Sophisticated Neanderthal, art:concept, Paris (2014); HAMMER Museum, Los Angeles (2014), Ourhouse E.3 feat. BAD COPY, Matt’s Gallery, London & Salle de Bains, Lyon 2012; I.C.A., London (2011); SMART Project Space, Amsterdam (2011) and Cobra Museum, Amstelveen (2011); De Hallen, Haarlem (2010); and the Stedelijk Museum Bureau in Amsterdam (2009)
Recent group exhibitions include: Modest Proposals for Radical Borgeoisie (2015), The Great Acceleration –Taipei Biennial (2014); ILLUMInations – the 54th Venice Biennale (2011); British Art Show 7 – In The Days of the Comet (2010-11); Altermodern, Tate Triennial (2009) and Biennale de Lyon (2007). Art Now: The Way in Which it Landed, curated by Ryan Gander at Tate Britain in 2008.
Curator of the national pavilion of Finland at the 57th Venice Biennale, Xander Karskens (NL, 1973) recently started as artistic director at the Cobra Museum in Amstelveen, where he collects and exhibits the art of this postwar avantgarde in relation to developments in contemporary art and discourse. Before, he was responsible for the contemporary art program and collections at Frans Hals Museum | De Hallen Haarlem. Earlier international exhibitions projects Karskens organized include Ghost in the system – scenarios for resistance at NCCA Moscow (2013) and FOCUS:the Netherlands at ARCOmadrid in 2012.
Photos: Ugo Carmeni