The summer of 2013 sees the opening of the Video Room in the Bodon wing. This space hosted a series of presentation of videos and digitalised films from the museum’s moving image collection. Every four months the Video Room will highlight the work of a particular artist, a specific theme or a selection of works from the museum’s collection. Artworks and objects related to the videos and films will also be displayed. The series kicked off with the humorous and absurdist videos of artists Erkka Nissinen (Kerava, Finland 1975) and Nathaniel Mellors (Doncaster, GB 1974).
The work of Erkka Nissinen and Nathanial Mellors demonstrates in different ways that video art can be humorous and absurd. The Finnish artist Nissinen does this through his lack of knowledge of the English language and his non-musicality in combination with elements from popular media. The British artist Mellors does so by placing figures in a complex narrative inspired by the books of French satirist François Rabelais (c.1494-1553). Although there is no visual similarity between the works shown here, the two artists have a great admiration for each other’s work, which grew during a residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, where they both studied.
Nissinen’s recently acquired work ‘Polis (Pilot)’ takes place in a utopian city supposedly designed by Le Corbusier (1887-1965) and Albert Speer (1905-1981) and features characters with enlarged hands and ears in strange situations. As in his other videos, Nissinen plays several roles himself. The video was filmed largely with blue-screen technology and computer animation, combined with elements from games, science fiction and children’s programmes. In addition to videos, Nissinen makes drawings that resemble storyboards or film scripts. The series of drawings ‘City (Polis)’ offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the making of the video. Nissinen is also co-owner of Handkerchief Productions, a company based in New York and Hong Kong focussing on interdisciplinary experiments in art and design. Nissinen studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London and the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki before beginning a residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in 2007. In 2011 Nissinen won the Illy Prize in Rotterdam.
Mellors’ work ‘Ourhouse Episode 3 - The Cure of Folly’ (2011) is part of a series of four videos. In his work, Mellors combines the formal aspects of television drama and sitcoms with contemporary art issues. At the beginning of this episode we see a character called ‘The Object’ eating pages from a book about Flemish painting, including images of paintings by Hieronymus Bosch. Another character, Truson, is convinced that he owns the ‘Venus of Hohle Fels’, the oldest figurative sculpture in the world. The ‘Ourhouse’ series features animatronic figures, which Mellors uses to speak directly to the public:
“The animatronics also have a very direct appeal to people, which might be useful to present them with various entrance levels to the work. They have the choice of how much time to spend with it or to just enjoy something because it’s a joke or looks good. But you can also chose to spend more time with it and really get inside the script. I quite like the idea that people don’t just bounce off the surface.”
The Collection of Moving Images
In 1972 the museum purchased three 16 mm films by the Belgian artist Pol Bury (1922-2005). Since then film and video have been part of the museum’s acquisitions policy. In addition to artists’ films, the collection also includes documentaries and recordings of performances and events, such as footage of Salvador Dalí’s visit to the museum in 1970. The Video Room complements Pipilotti Rist’s installation ‘Let Your Hair Down’, which features a selection of six video works from the collection. The museum also presents informative videos about art and design on the rapidly expanding online video channel ARTtube.nl shared with the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, De Pont in Tilburg and M HKA in Antwerp.
In the media
In 2010 the Amsterdam-based gallery Ellen de Bruijne Projects showed a remarkable installation by Erkka Nissinen, comprising paintings, a soundtrack, videos and lighting effects. In this episode of Kunstuur (Art Hour), Stedelijk Museum curator Bart Rutten explores the 20-minute show.
You can watch Nissinen’s videos ‘Night School’ (2007) and ‘Rigid Regime’ (2012) here.
Intrigued by Nathaniel Mellors’ video? You can watch the trailer for ‘Ourhouse’ here.
In this video you can see two animatronic heads of the character Daddy, attached by his own hair, having a discussion with himself.