Nathaniel Mellors & Erkka Nissinen
June 7 - July 20, 2019
Opening reception: Friday, June 7, 6 PM - 9 PM
BAD MANTRAS by Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen, Mellors’ second exhibition at The Box, is a dark satire of contemporary western politics and cultural assumption. We enter a space/time k-hole/black-hole where autocracy and corruption has led to a world of dysfunction and absurd inversion…
…Where humans are subjugated to puppets and a giant talking egg is GOD.
…Where nationalism manifests in cosmic/comic acts and the world is remade as just one country … FINLAND.
…Where liberal-democracy has become a terrified technocratic autocracy and to make matters worse the God-like creators of Planet Finland will be back any moment now to check-in on the culture they think they’ve created...
This may not go so well.
At the core of Mellors and Nissinen’s exhibition is The Aalto Natives, a project originally conceived for the Finland Pavilion of the 2017 Venice Biennale. This is a comedy which fuses creation mythology and religion with contemporary themes through the archetypal narrative of Atum and Geb, the father and son creators of “New Finland”. Atum and Geb - a talking egg and talking cardboard box - exist in the gallery as animatronic sculptures, interacting with the video projections, through which we experience their mock-epic narrative. The Box will show The Aaltos Natives (Floored version), which was exhibited in Mellor’s solo exhibition, Progressive Rocks, at the New Museum in 2018. This work is a sculptural amalgamation of Atum and Geb: multiple projections shoot from their heads and limbs, floating images of the film around the room and encouraging the viewer to move about the space and objectify the sculptural bodies.
The current political and cultural situation in the U.S.A. intertwines crooked corporate dealings, infantile political activity and the hermetic mediation of reality through social media and the news cycle - we experience the apparently permanent extension of the dominant power structure and its inverse - the new underclass - a growth beneath the belly of ownership. In The Aalto Natives, all the characters living outside of the technocratic political super-structure are subject to misery and mutation. They sing songs about it, and some have resorted to performance art. This work mirrors the scenes and situations we see increasingly manifesting in the world.
In narrative dialogue with The Aalto Natives storyline, the exhibition presents two new works: Presidential Crucifixion (2019) and Bad Mantras (2019). Presidential Crucifixion features The President of Finland puppet, with a spherical head and long tentacle-like arms, and mounts him to the wall as a totemic sacrifice. The projected film upon him both glorifies and degrades him at the same time. Bad Mantras isa felt sculpture of the mangled Transcendental Accident character from The Aalto Natives. The Transcendental Accident has no centralized body but multiple-heads and long limbs reaching out and improvising with various musical instruments. It’s performing, it’s singing … it’s a sculpture trying to transcend its own objectification.
The humor and playful visual tone of Mellors and Nissinen’s work highlights the moral complexity of our intense political and environmental issues. The Box is excited to bring these works to their first showing on the west coast at a time of broad social and political vulnerability and to invite the viewer to enjoy the work’s humor and use it as a vehicle to encourage reflection.
Mellors (b. 1974, Doncaster, England) studied at the Royal College of Art, London and the Ruskin School, Oxford University. Between 2007-09, he was a resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. Themes of power, class, ownership and linguistic manipulation reoccur across Mellors’ work, often manifest within absurdist narratives that reveal a penchant for satire and the grotesque. He often draws on Upper Palaeolithic studies as a means of exploring contemporary issues. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include: The Aalto Natives at The Finnish Pavilion of the 2017 Venice Biennial; Bad Copy, Matt's Gallery, London; Prequel Dump, The Box, Los Angeles; Nathaniel Mellors: Hammer Projects, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Nathaniel Mellors: The Nest, Cobra Museum, Amstelveen, Netherlands; Performa 2011, New York; Nathaniel Mellors: Ourhouse, ICA, London; and Ourhouse, De Hallen, Haarlem. Mellors was awarded the 2014 Contemporary Art Society Prize, and the 2011 Cobra Art Prize.
Erkka Nissinen (b. 1975, Jyväskylä, Finland) uses absurdist humour as a vehicle to explore topical social issues and political themes through his DIY-style videos and installations. He lives and works in New York and Hong Kong. Recent exhibitions include The Finnish Pavilion – Venice Biennial (2017), de Hallen, Haarlem (2015), Art Parcours/Art Basel (2015), Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam (2012/2009), M+ in Hong Kong (2012), Helsinki City Art Museum’s Kluuvi Gallery (2011) and, 1646 in The Hague (2009). During the 2011 Rotterdam Art Fair, Nissinen won the acclaimed Illy Prize for his video Rigid Regime. In 2013 he won the AVEK award for media arts, Helsinki. Nissinen was resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam between 2007-2009.
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