The Sophisticated Neanderthal Interview is a new film work by British artist Nathaniel Mellors. The action focuses on an interview between Truson, a character from Mellor’s earlier work Ourhouse and an apparently genuine Neanderthal man.
The site for the interview is the exterior of a large cave called “E-Den”. (in fact the location of the original 1960s Batcave in Griffiths Park, Los Angeles). This metaphorical place is meant to represent the shift from the hunter-gatherer mode of human existence to the more knowledge-based Neolithic way of life, in which people began to rely on farming and ownership of land. This period of change in human history can be seen as the starting point of the modern economy of ownership, and the subsequent slide into ecological unsustainability.
Up until recently, it was widely believed that Neanderthals were incapable of making art, and that the emergence of art marked a shift in consciousness toward the intelligent and creative modern human mind. Recent discoveries of older Neanderthal-era cave Art could disprove these theories and call into question the idea that art and religion are ‘hard-wired’ into the architecture of the human brain. The eponymous 'Sophisticated Neanderthal' character (played by Patrick Kennedy) has been exiled from E-Den by a mysterious organisation called the Sporgo. He claims that the Sporgo control all cave art, and that that his earlier work was accepted because it was ‘more Sporgo-ey’. He smokes coloured Nat Sherman cigarettes, and is confused from drinking too much ‘Ant Juice’. As the action continues, it becomes clear that it is the Neanderthal who is in control of the situation, as opposed to Truson, his naive interviewer.
The Sophisticated Neanderthal Interview retains the hybrid character of Mellor’s earlier work but incorporates influences from American film which, along with British television and European cinema, have long been a latent influence on Mellor’s art.
Nathaniel Mellors (b. 1974, Britain) is an artist based in Amsterdam and Los Angeles. Recent solo exhibitions include Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, De Hallen, Haarlem and the Stedelijk Museum Bureau in Amsterdam. Recent group shows include British Art Show 7 - In The Days of the Comet (2010-11), Altermodern (Tate Britain, 2009) and the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011. In 2009, Mellors was commissioned by the BBC to make a short work of art to introduce the final episode of the cultural history series The Seven Ages of Britain and in 2013 made a short for Channel 4 through the Jarman Award. He is the 2011 recipient of the Cobra Art Prize. Mellors studied at the Ruskin School, Oxford University (1996-99), the Royal College of Art, London (1999-2001), and the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam (2007-09).
The Sophisticated Neanderthal Interview was made with support from 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 + Studios, Dublin.