NATHANIEL MELLORS - Ourhouse

18.09.2010 - 05.12.2010

The British artist Nathaniel Mellors (b. Doncaster, 1974) produces installations with animatronic sculptures and satirical videos in which humour and language are central. In recent years he has developed an experimental practice which combines video, sculpture, performance, theatre and critical writing. Work by Nathaniel Mellors was previously to be seen in De Hallen Haarlem in the Recent Acquisitions exhibition in 2009/2010. In 2008, the museum acquired his video installation The Time Surgeon (2007). For his presentation Ourhouse in De Hallen Haarlem he has made an extensive new installation. 

In Ourhouse Nathaniel Mellors combines sculptural elements with narrative video. In the video series a wealthy European family are unexpectedly confronted with a mysterious manifestation, ‘the Object’, which suddenly appears in the living room of their country home. This figure seems to have a profound effect on the conduct of the characters. At night it eats pages from ideological texts, which it subsequently spits out again. Owing to this, the father figure ‘Daddy’ changes radically from an elitist with liberal economic convictions to someone who goes in search of collectivist ideals by mingling with the workers, clothed as a ‘working class hero’. The changes in the characters’ personalities give rise to grotesque and humorous scenes, bringing both Samuel Beckett and Monty Python to mind. InOurhouse the artist handles subjects such as religion, ideology and power in an absurdist and theatrical manner. 

Mellors represented the two central figures in the videos, ‘Daddy’ and ‘the Object’, through two animatronic sculptures in the exhibition. These are lifelike latex casts of faces which are brought to life by means of electronics and software: The Object as a book-eating presence, and the twin sculptureHippy Dialectics as the representation of Daddy’s character development. 
Among the important sources of inspiration for the scenes in Ourhouse are the production techniques and script writing in TV drama, soaps and comedy. Mellors uses language as a means to tell a story to his viewers, but also to produce confusion and alienation. With a succession of plays on words and fragmented, experimental dialogues he reveals how language can create a world all by itself, and at the same time falls short in facilitating human communication. The manipulative qualities of language, and the relation between words and reality are recurrent themes in Mellors’ work. 

Publication 

The publication Book A / MEGACOLON / For and Against Language was published alongsideOurhouse. It contains a selection of scripts by Nathaniel Mellors and texts by John C. Welchman and Mick Peter. Book A / MEGACOLON / For and Against Language is edited by Xander Karskens. Design: Remco van Bladel. Publisher: Onomatopee. RSP 20 euros. Read more about Book A or MEGACOLON or For and Against Language.
From 5 November through 19 December Onomatopee presented Mellors’ work in its project space. This exhibition was organised in collaboration with De Hallen Haarlem. Further information: www.onomatopee.net. 

Ourhouse
 was made possible by generous financial support from the Dutch Film Fund and the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture.

Evening events 

Beamclub with Nathaniel Mellors, 22 September 2010, 8 p.m., location: De Verdieping, Wibautstraat 127 Amsterdam. 

Programme with art historian John C. Welchman and Nathaniel Mellors. 4 November 2010, 8 p.m., location: Rijksakademie, Sarphatistraat 470 Amsterdam.

Photography: Gert Jan van Rooij

Download the exhibition guide