Giant egg with face and projector on head

the aalto natives

Nathaniel Mellors


Exhibition (M), Authored Book (A), Double weighted

Identity, Sculpture, Audio Interaction, Visual Storytelling

Sculpture, Performance, Drawing, Collage, Archives, Sport, Swimming


For his project, The Aalto Natives, Nathaniel Mellors works in an interdisciplinary field, crossing over contemporary art installation with theatre which includes: HD video recordings of muppet-style puppeteering, 3D CGI and hand-drawn animation.

The new research insight is to make a derisive story that focuses on clichés and concepts of national identity, using absurdist satire to poke fun at its own discourse and political correctness. The work addresses issues of nationalism, bureaucracy and xenophobia using two animatronic puppets, Geb and Atum, to consider profound contemporary issues such as power, morality and tolerance. Using fragmented videos as points of discussion, the messianic puppets return to a pre-historic Finland to better understand existing Finnish culture. Through play and narrative science-fiction which critiques religion and anthropological thought, Mellors engages in the questioning of systemic errors of a culture dominated by rationalism.

The Aalto Natives is an immersive installation and animatronic sculpture made by Mellors (1974, UK) and Erkka Nissinen (1975, Finland) for the Alvar Aalto Pavilion of Finland for the 57th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, 2017. The exhibition is accompanied by the book, The Aalto Natives — A Transcendental Manual, designed by Studio Remco van Bladel, Amsterdam and co-published by international art magazine Mousse.

In terms of reach, the work received 500,000 visitors at the Venice Biennale. Major partners include: Visit Finland, Jyväskylä City & the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Finland. Main supporters include: the Mondriaan Fund, the Saastamoinen Foundation & the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland, along with Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, the Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Stigter van Doesburg, Frans Hals Museum | De Hallen Haarlem, Amsterdam, the Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture AVEK, Prague, the Embassy of Finland in Rome, MONITOR, Rome, The Box, Los Angeles & Matt’s Gallery, London.

Hilarious discussions about politics, social media, and ethics ensue. If it sounds bonkers, that's because it is - in the best possible way. Do no miss it.

Lorena Munoz-Alonso Art World

Eggcellent! This was so absolutely absurd I was asking myself what the hell I was doing still there for most of the film! Such a highlight of the biennale!

Melissa McGrath

The first pavillion in which frieze has witnessed non-stop laughter by the audience.

Frieze Magazine
Cardboard box made into face with eyes and mouth looking up at an egg
Cardboard box with face
Giant egg with frowning face
Cardboard box with face and projector on top of it
Wax model of neanderthal man
Bright painting of a neanderthal man

Funding credits

The main partner for The Aalto Natives is the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, along with Visit Finland and the City of Jyvaskyla. The main supporter of The Aalto Natives is the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland, together with the Mondriaan Fund and the Saastamoinen Foundation.