Beursschouwburg: The Aalto Natives

An image of two men standing next to each other and there is a large white creature to their right.
©  Ugo Carmeni / Frame Contemporary Art Finland

The video component of Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen’s fascinating work The Aalto Natives, which Finland presented at the Venice Biennale in its centenary year, will be presented at Arts Centre Beursschouwburg in the heart of Brussels. The video installation tells the story of Finland’s history and cultural origins by way of absurdist satire while reflecting on prevailing power structures and questions of morality.

The Aalto Natives explores the construction of national identity and cultural heritage. Combining an intellectual purpose with absurdity, the work deals with challenges faced by a globalised world, including nationalism, intolerance and class polarisation. As collaborators, Nissinen and Mellors often use comedy as a strategy in their works.

Drawing from obscene situations, The Aalto Natives uses humour to explore identities and stereotypes of archaeology, anthropology and science fiction. The work features two messianic figures Geb and Atum who, having created Finnish society millions of years earlier, return as outsiders and now have to try and understand it. The characters are played by talking animated puppets. The work is tied together by conversations between Geb and Atum in which they discuss video vignettes about Finnish mythology, contemporary society and their vision on Finland’s future. The dialogue opens the door for Mellors and Nissinen to critique religion, the nature of human existence, rationalism and civilisation, and the fetishization of these constructs.

The Aalto Natives is commissioned and produced by Frame Contemporary Art Finland.