2019 JAN–JUN

Artist Erkka Nissinen talks comedy and collaboration

New York -based Finnish artist Erkka Nissinen will spend January – June 2019 in residency at the ISCP creating new installation and video works, continuing his collaboration with Los Angeles -based artist Nathaniel Mellors. Nissinen’s residency is supported by the Alfred Kordelin Foundation.

Erkka Nissinen has studied at The Slade School of Fine Art in London and gained an MFA degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, Finland in 2001. The multidisciplinary artist’s works often combine moving image, sound and installation, offering critique on contemporary phenomena with a humorous tone, like in The Aalto Natives work chosen to represent Finland at the 2017 Venice Biennale. The project started Nissinen’s collaboration with Nathaniel Mellors.

“Me and Nathaniel Mellors had been wanting to collaborate for a long time. We didn’t expect our open submission for the Venice Biennale to actually get chosen, but it seemed like a good excuse to finally do something together.”

Erkka Nissinen and Nathaniel Mellors,  The Aalto Natives , Pavilion of Finland at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, video still, 2017.

Erkka Nissinen and Nathaniel Mellors, The Aalto Natives, Pavilion of Finland at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, video still, 2017.

The winning work The Aalto Natives is a video installation that examines Finnish identity, contemporary Finnish society, nationalism, and religion. The video work explores these sometimes heavy themes in Nissinen’s signature playful and humoristic style. It features two animatronic puppets, alien beings named Geb and Atum, who have created Finland millions of years earlier and are now revisiting the country to explore the culture that has developed since.

“For some reason, the comedic aspects come quite naturally to me. If my work can make people laugh, it at least fulfills the function of being entertaining. Humour makes the themes that I explore in my work more approachable. Laughter is a very immediate, spontaneous reaction.”

Erka Nissinen,  What is Community , video, drawing and installation, 2016.

Erka Nissinen, What is Community, video, drawing and installation, 2016.

During his residency period at the ISCP in New York, Nissinen will continue his collaboration with Nathaniel Mellors. The artist duo will create new narrative video work featuring animatronic puppets. Nissinen is also looking forward to working on a drawing-based installation, something that brings him back to his early interest in making comics. Nissinen views comics and moving image as closely connected mediums.

“Drawing for me is an extremely enjoyable way of making art. It is such a straightforward and simple medium as you don’t need any complicated production technique. It’s a pure pleasure principle.