Neanderthals and cannibals to meet in dilapidated cinema at brutalist bus station after gallery wins contemporary art award
Nathaniel Mellors, a British artist known for his satirical and absurd works, is not exaggerating when he speaks of “pulling out some deeper weirdness” in his “unique” new commission for Preston’s imposing Harris Museum and Art Gallery.
© Sophie Mutevilian
Effectively won through the Contemporary Art Society Annual Award and the £40,000 in funding that prize brings, Mellors – whose current Ourhouse series has featured the likes of Harry Potter actor Richard Bremner and Gwendoline Christie, of Game of Thrones and Star Wars – will reimagine the notorious, brutalist bus station in the Lancashire city as a knackered cinema where cannibals and Neanderthals battle.
“The exterior will be Preston Bus Station, this piece of 60s modernism and a kind of archetypal brutalist exterior which also looks a bit like a tardis,” says Mellors.
“Its interior is a rotten, rundown cinema populated by a Neanderthal tribe and also a group of cannibals. I think the Neanderthals should be constructing some kind of icon; some kind of head which is an exteriorisation of themselves which will be peculiar."
Filmed on a grey and rainy day, Preston might be perceived in an unflattering light. But Mellors, who will create the work for the Harris having been chosen for the award from a shortlist of bright artists fleetingly represented in British galleries, believes some of its architecture is “extraordinary”. As unbeautiful as it might appear, the bus station itself has recently become Grade II listed.
“The city is relatively compact, yet architecturally it’s really diverse,” says Clarissa Corfe, the Exhibitions Officer at the Harris, admitting that the depot is “infamous”.
“So it makes for an ideal film set. Nathaniel’s interested in a range of buildings around Preston.
“One of them is the bus station. It’s brutalist in style and monumental in scale.
"I’ve been wanting to work with Nathaniel for a few years and the award seemed like the perfect opportunity to do something really substantial.
“I invited him to use the social history collection or something of the fabric of the city of Preston as a starting point.”
Defining the possible feel of the finished film is tricky. Corfe says Mellors reflects ubiquitous forms of high and lowbrow culture. The artist himself says he deals in film and video, as well as sculpture and multimedia informed by his scripts.
“I was always interested in some sort of hybrid approach which needed to incorporate my interest in TV and film and weird music – a more psychedelic culture and script-writing and fantasy and fiction,” he says.
“I want to take a form and sort of switch all its insides around so that it works different and you become aware, partly, of the strangeness and subjectivity of the form.
“The support and faith in my work that this award represents is impossible to put a price on.”
- The Contemporary Art Society Annual Award is supported by the Sfumato Foundation.
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