Venice Biennale 2017

Artists Nathaniel Mellors (1974, UK) and Erkka Nissinen (1975, Finland) represent Finland at the 57th edition of Venice Biennale with The Aalto Natives.

Commissioned and produced by Frame Contemporary Art Finland, the exhibition is curated by Xander Karskens (1973, Netherlands), artistic director at Cobra Museum of Modern Art in Amstelveen.


The Aalto Natives

Working collaboratively, the artists will transform the Pavilion of Finland – built in 1956 by architect Alvar Aalto – into an immersive, multimedia environment. The installation brings together sculptural elements, animatronics and video, which are synchronised in a dynamic choreography of dialogue and image. The exhibition focuses on various clichés surrounding Finnish history and national identity for The Aalto Natives.

Taking cues from archaeology, anthropology and science fiction, short video vignettes at the core of the installation re-imagine Finnish society through the eyes of a pair of outsider figures, represented by talking animatronic puppets who, in dialogue, present a lecture. The animatronic puppets introduce a series of fast-paced video vignettes on Finnish mythology, contemporary Finnish society and their vision for the future of Finland.


Selection through Open Call

Nissinen and Mellors are individually recognised for their absurd, irreverent and hilarious story-driven work; their humorous approach belies a profound understanding of contemporary issues of morality and communication. The artists met in Amsterdam during their Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten residency from 2007-8, and have been admirers of each other’s work since.

Nissinen and Mellors were selected through an Open Call process issued by Frame Contemporary Art Finland in 2016. The jury was impressed by the inventiveness of the proposal, its subversive humour, and the imaginative way it responded 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.”

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


Photo: Ugo Carmeni / 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.