Asceticism in the Seventh Age: Eats Butterflies and Rot

3 June 2013

Chris Bloor and Nathaniel Mellors speak in issue 32

Nathaniel Mellors, The Saprophage, 2012

The fourth chapter of Touchables (my super-subjective “investigation into the sentimental ownership of reproduced experiences”) is called Catch The Butterfly and Eat It and it features a long interview with British artists Chris Bloor and Nathaniel Mellors, who were in Rome for the exhibition Recent collaborations before The Saprophage at Monitor gallery.

The show was built around Mellors’ latest film and was conceived and realized with Bloor’s direct intervention, as a further comment upon the film’s themes. As Mellors pointed out, The Saprophage draws inspiration from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s cinema, with the poet’s massive body of work (in the first place, his analysis of the trajectory of industrial capitalism) standing as the main reference for a loose meditation on how alienated we are in the blue era of consumerism.

Nathaniel Mellors, Before & After The Saprophage, 2012

Thanks to Monitor, artist and writer Tijana Mamula and I arranged to spend a pleasant afternoon with Bloor and Mellors, discussing their work in detail and engaging the two in what ended up being a debate on the collapse of Western civilization.

The outcome was just brilliant, and hilarious.

If you want to go deeper into Mellors’ diverse imagery, start with The Seven Ages of Britain Teaser, produced by the BBC in 2009. As the final chapter of a documentary series devoted to the millennial history of British art and artefact-making, it was broadcast on TV and watched by thousands of viewers.

Nathaniel Mellors, The Seven Ages of Britain Teaser, 2010

Mellors’ interest in TV narratives leads us straight to Ourhouse, the six-part series mentioned in the interview. Here below is the segment The Nest, which won the Cobra Prize in 2011.

Nathaniel Mellors, Ourhouse – The Nest, 2011

The development of the series as well as Mellors’ influences are outlined in profound and witty terms by Dan Fox in Dispatches from Ourhouse: for a taste of what Fox means when he talks of “parochiality” in relation to the artist’s poetics, check out Mellors’ post on the StopMakingSense music blog.

This latter is connected to the exhibition Bad Copy (Matt’s Gallery, 2012) and stands out as a clever speculation on the idea of parody in the quintessentially accessible form of a Youtube playlist: annoyingly, some of the videos were removed, but you can still enjoy the genius.

Writer and filmmaker Dan Fox was also involved with Mellors and musician Andy Cooke in the founding of the independent music label Junior Aspirin RecordsOn the map since 2002, Junior Aspirin operates as a platform for artists, whose experiments with the aesthetics of pop music imply a politically conscious approach and a necessarily strong take on the visual, in continuity with the best of the British post-punk experience.

A new website by Mellors and Chris Bloor should be up by July 2013: it will be called Hypercoloniser, recalling the :hypercolon: group show curated by the duo in 2011.

As said in the NERO interview, :hypercolon: was designed as a journey through the human body, the exhibition being a large scale version of Mellors’ multimedia installation Giantbum, in which a group of thirteenth-century explorers get lost in the body of a giant.

An essay on Giantbum by John C. Welchman as well as an illuminating interview with Mellors by Nicolas Bourriaud can be found in the newsletter published by the SMBA when Giantbum was first exhibited in 2009.

Finally, I would also recommend Mellors’ contribution to Various Small Fires, an interesting blog focused on the possible roles of photography and print making in relation to contemporary arts.

The subject of this post is the Venus of Truson, a photographic artwork Mellors created using analogue techniques and printed manually in Chris Bloor’s house.

The 97 “photogrammic originals” of the series are a further result of the two artists’ common research, in which Bloor’s theoretical knowledge and gruff poetics play a key role: keep an eye on these pages to learn more about him.

The Saprophage will be back in my review of the 42nd Rotterdam film festival, in which Mellors’ film was screened as part of the Present Tense programme.

My personal thanks goes to Bloor and Mellors for sharing their unique vision; to the Monitor staff for making it happen; to Tijana Mamula for her invaluable support; and to everyone who shared in my excitement in the making of what turned out to be a truly heartfelt piece.

Words by Michele Manfellotto