“The Aalto Natives”
Artists: Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinnen
This one was funky and absurd. In fact the artists, Mellors and Nissinnen, are not Finnish which is interesting because the work surrounds issues of nationalism, xenophobia, bureaucracy, and intolerance through Finnish historical and national identity.
Inside a very tight space, multiple media forms take over the room. The audience is immediately presented a story involving two characters, 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.” In a gawky manner, a projection of the two characters shifts from wall to wall and changes to a beam of light onto the face of a larger-than-human egg. The egg has a moving sculptural face.
The projection-movement is created by a robotic base which balances the projector itself. One does not need to stay inside the room for a long time because the narrative itself is episodic, allowing the viewer to find absurdity and humor in frequent fragments of the characters’ conversations. The work is a chaotic mixture of film, projection, claymation, robotics, and the egg filling up a dark room.
“For both artists, there is something radical – even revolutionary – about comedy. In a 2013 interview in ArtReview magazine, Mellors said, “I’m very interested in the seriousness of humour and a specific form of not-very-funny funny that can have a destabilising effect on the viewer.” In the library he explains what he means: “Laughter can function as a short-circuiting of the rational. It is a way of processing irrational things – a way to deal with things that are emotionally irrational or existentially irrational.” He cites the etymology of the English word ‘humour’ (humus in Latin relates to the earth, to moisture and to humanity itself, as Homo Sapiens). “Humour has a real, physical value,” he says. Nissinen agrees: “I’m naturally drawn into comedy,” he says, “to a grotesque humour. It’s a very clear indication if something is working or not. I want people to have some kind of response to my work – if it’s funny then you know it’s doing something.”