Hammer Projects: Nathaniel Mellors

Hammer Projects: Nathaniel Mellors

British artist Nathaniel Mellors makes irreverent, absurd and hilarious videos, sculptures, performances and writings that challenge our notions of taste, morality, and intelligence. His seminal series, Ourhouse (2010- ongoing), features a cast of misfit characters enacting the decline of an eccentric British family. A more recent work, The Saprophage (2012), examines the literal and metaphoric waste produced by contemporary society.

Mellors’ Hammer Projects exhibition centers around his newly completed film The Sophisticated Neanderthal Interview (produced in collaboration with Commonwealth Projects during a residency at the Hammer). The 35mm/HD transfer film features an interview between an ethereal “modern” man (Truson, a character from Ourhouse) and an apparently real Neanderthal. The Neanderthal is cleverer than Truson and plays with him and his expectations of primitivism. The interview appears to take place in a version of the mythic “Eden” (“E-Den”), and was filmed in the historic Bronson Caves in Griffith Park. This site is presented as a metaphoric place—Eden as a metaphor for the shift between a sustainable mode of human existence (hunter-gatherer) in the Upper Paleolithic to a Neolithic mode of existence based on the knowledge of farming and ownership of land which is the beginning of our modern system and the point at which we enter an economy of ownership which is ultimately ecologically untenable. The Neanderthal has been thrown out of the caves by an organization called “The Sporgo,” which, he claims, owns the caves and controls cave art. The work draws on the emergence of art as a marker of human consciousness and the idea that art and religion are hard-wired into the architecture of the human brain. It also plays off the formerly accepted idea that Neanderthals were not capable of making art. Hence the eponymous ‘Sophisticated Neanderthal’ character, who teases his less sophisticated interrogator. Mellors' films are always in a reciprocal relationship with sculpture, often sculpture is written into the center of the scenario, and for the last three years Mellors has been particularly interested in the sculpture and culture of the Upper Palaeolithic, which informs this new body of work.

Organized by Hammer curator Ali Subotnick.

Shakespeare with Teeth (+ 3 Bottles of Juice)
Nathaniel Mellors
Shakespeare with Teeth (+ 3 Bottles of Juice)
4 backlit PSV prints. Courtesy of the artist and MONITOR, Rome; Stigter van Doesburg, Amsterdam; and Matt’s Gallery, London. In Hammer Projects: Nathaniel Mellors, January 18 – June 1, 2014. Photo: Brian Forrest.


Nathaniel Mellors was born in Doncaster, England in 1974. He currently lives and works in Amsterdam & Los Angeles. He studied at the Royal College of Art, London and the Ruskin School, Oxford University. Recent solo exhibitions include: Nathaniel Mellors: The Nest, Cobra Museum, Amstelveen, Netherlands (2011); Performa 2011, New York; Nathaniel Mellors: Ourhouse, ICA, London (2011); and Ourhouse, De Hallen, Haarlem (2010). Mellors has been featured in several important group exhibitions including British Art Show 7: In The Days of the Comet, touring: The Slaughterhouse, Plymouth; CCA, Glasgow; Hayward Gallery, London (2011); La Biennale di Venezia - 54th International Art Exhibition – ILLUMinations, Venice, Italy (2011); Un’Expressione GeograficaFondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, Italy (2011); and Altermodern, Tate Triennial 2009, Tate Britain, London. He is the recipient of the 2011 Cobra Art Prize, the Montehermoso Visual Arts Grant, Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam Production Residency.

Hammer Projects is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Maurice Marciano and Paul Marciano; Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy; and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.

Additional support is provided by Good Works Foundation and Laura Donnelley; the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs; the Decade Fund; and the David Teiger Curatorial Travel Fund.

Hammer Projects: Nathaniel Mellors is presented through a residency at the Hammer Museum.

The Sophisticated Neanderthal Interview was realized with the generous support of the Mondriaan Fund, Netherlands; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Film London Jarman Award; Matt’s Gallery, London; Stigter van Doesburg, Amsterdam; MONITOR, Rome; and Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin.