Nathaniel Mellors Speaks Good
Artists talking about their works make me nervous. It’s mostly Bill Viola’s fault. Bill talked some years back at the RMIT and it was so dull, that some clown stood up and as he stormed toward the nearest exit, yelled exacerbatedly: “Where can I get my money back?!” (Bill’s talk cost money). It was the 45 minute diatribe into ‘the history of photography’, situating himself firmly within the canon that had gotten many of us going. It was a case of “shut up Bill and press play”. The earnestness of the talk, with its God-like delivery, has really tainted how I see Bill’s work.
I needn’t have worried about Nathaniel Mellors doing his work a dis-service by speaking shit though. He’s a genius artist who can communicate his often very warped ideas, with a rationalism that has you scratching your head later. I was green with envy that I hadn’t thought of this stuff myself and that I’m not pals with Gwendoline Christie, partying hearty together in the hills of LA…
‘I am frequently beset by that most sincere of artistic emotions, jealousy.’
Wanting; Richard Flanagan
The videos are high brow/what the truck. A bit Cardinal Burns (referencing less of the street and more of those poor long suffering Catholics, but with a Shakespearian twist), a bit The Mighty Boosch (but with more foreboding), and a bit Tim and Eric (in the what the? kind of unexpectedness of where this is all going to end up). I would add in some Doomsday Preppers too. It’s not a comedy but is very funny reality.
The thing I miss most about living in the UK is the TV. It was brilliant. We’d sit at home getting slaughtered, watching the most incredible shows together. Improvising our entertainment with random channel changes.
We watched Nathaniel’s clip of the guy reaching a Dorian Gray like eternity by eating his own shit and it all made complete and perfect sense. I got the feeling that Nathaniel was a James Joyce-like purveyor of TV culture. He produces these heavily encoded Ulysses master video works, with completely realised whys and what for’s.
Following well received work at Tate Modern, Nathaniel was offered an opportunity by the BBC to produce an opening credit sequence teaser for the seven part art show The Seven Ages of Britain Teaser. This gave him access to professional equipment and expertise for the first time. Mellors made note that up until then, he had stuck with the line that the low-fi DIY aesthetic was integral to his artistic vision, but when he had an opportunity to upgrade, he worked out this wasn’t really true. He showed us the BBC work and I filmed Kelly Rutter signing the video to the audience which I’m sure was not an easy task, given Nathaniel’s penchant for manipulating manipulative language to blur reality. We were impressed by her elegance.
Nathaniel shared many excerpts from his videos and images of his works in situ too. It’s built from free associative dialogue. The scripts and characters give the sense that it’s all about to turn to shit. Speaking of shit, Nathaniel has really jammed through the creative possibilities of faecal matter. There’s a bleeding round the edges between ideas surrounding respect and disdain, realism and surrealism.
You know it’s funny. Kit Wise introduced the Nathaniel Mellors keynote lecture at the Wheelers centre on Thursday night and I was surprised. I thought Kit Wise was a woman. It’s sexist I know, but I had it in my brain that Kit was an early 30’s female brainiac who’d written a seminal thesis at an impressively early age. That’s all wrong. Kit Wise is an Englishman and he went to art school with Mellors in England. I had assumed Kit was short for Kitty, or maybe even Kitten. Kitten Wise.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Nathaniel for his life and work (did I mention he’s a muso too with his own record label?). This was a bloody brilliant Thursday night’s entertainment. Much better than sitting at home watching the box. And it inspired me to come up with a new art reality TV show for Channel 10. It’s called The Farmer wants an Artist Wife. Addressing the urban man drought, hot young arts graduates make a rural sojourn, rocking the Akubra/Drizabone look and earnestly explain their challenging conceptual arts practice to a single hunky cowcocky. The sound of amplified crickets fills the dusty void. Cowcocky’s mum enters stage left with disdain on her face and some finger sandwiches.