Photo by Jason BotkinDirector and artist Andreas Nilsson
- Name: Andreas Nilsson
- Created on: 1973-April-27
- Location: Malmö, Sweden
- Homepage: Andreas Nilsson, Furlined
- Domain: Art, Filmmaking
During the Oslo opening of Andreas Nilsson’s The Church of Pancakes, unwanted guests appeared from the sky and transformed his installation into an explosion of breakfast food that would come to involve the police. This is fitting, as the work was inspired by a documented alien invasion. Chances are, things won’t go quite so awry when Nilsson joins Flux and Furlined tonight for a private viewing of his Church in West Hollywood – even if the scene of a “dirty pancake festival” sounds like just the thing he’d choreograph in one of his music videos.
Nilsson, who is also a painter and rock guitarist, is known for his videos for MGMT’s “Flash Delirium,” Miike Snow’s “Rabbit” and Fever Ray’s “If I Had a Heart,” which all feature lush settings and colorful cinematography perfectly tailored to each video’s very different theme. These videos tell strange stories, showcase unknown rituals and invite vivid, often uncanny, yet sometimes comical imagery that seem too outlandish to have been inspired by real events. Strange happenings abound every day, and fortunately, Nilsson knows how to pluck them up and give them the home they deserve, where everyone can watch them dance to the music.
Tell us about yourself, your background and what inspired you to become a filmmaker and artist.
I was born in a tiny village of 1500 people in the woods of Sweden, and moved from home at 16 to attend art school in the metropolis of Gothenburg. My background is the art world. I stayed in art school for many years, and during that time, I played in a band that emulated the sound of German bands from the ‘70s. I also painted and animated videos, and my friend Karin Dreijer Andersson liked those and asked me to do a video for her new band at the time, the Knife. I did, and I have been making music videos since then. Art was the only thing that meant something to me and that I felt I was good at. I have had three other jobs: teaching at a university, working as a prison guard and being the night receptionist at a gritty hotel. The receptionist job is the only job I sometimes miss.
Photo by Jason BotkinDirector Andreas Nilsson with MGMT on the set of their “Flash Delirium” video
Your music videos present glimpses of foreign worlds, where viewers are outsiders, watching what feels like a slightly supernatural, National Geographic-style documentary. How does this reflect your storytelling style?
Supernatural National Geographic-style is a new one. I like that! I started out telling much more tone-based, abstract stories, and I enjoyed deconstruction. But lately, I’ve been focusing more on the storytelling. The latest videos for MGMT and Miike Snow, for example, have a pretty basic linear structure. I’m still in deconstruction mode, but with a more straight narrative. I try to be sensitive to things popping up during a creative process, but in the end nothing ever happens randomly.
Your aesthetic reminds me of a sinister atmosphere that is thick with symbols in a way that is sometimes reminiscent of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick. Who and what inspires your aesthetic vision and method of storytelling?
I love so many artists, from Alfred Schnittke to Béla Tarr and Paul Thek. But mainly, I try to draw inspiration from my own experiences. I just did a video for Yeasayer that is based on an experience I had while living in the Outer Hebrides. My friend, a shepherd, delivered an extremely freakish-looking, deformed lamb. It was still alive, but it slowly faded away as it was born. Those kinds of situations, experiences and characters find ways of appearing in my work.
Photo by Johan RenckNilsson’s collaborations with friend Karin Dreijer Andersson have included directing music videos and designing stage and wardrobe for her bands, the Knife and Fever Ray.
Are there any artists or filmmakers who inspire you, and yet have an aesthetic completely different from your own?
Whether or not Nilsson’s MTV VMA-nominated video for MGMT wins, it will go down as one of the most surreal videos of 2010.
Many of your videos also feature dancing and rituals. These, combined with the setting and cinematography, infuse the videos with that sense of an unknown culture and sometimes juxtapose eerie darkness with campiness. For example, the MGMT “Flash Delirium” video is both creepy and hilarious. How do you achieve that, and why are dancing and rituals a theme you?
When doing a music video, the musicality always needs to be present. I’m not very interested in capturing a performance with the band jumping around. Dancing is far more visually interesting to me. Even when we did “Heartbeats,” the first video for the Knife, we talked about it in terms of dancing and choreography. So it has always been there. The rituals and darkness come from my interest in the occult, the ghost world and dark, science fiction literature from writers like Philip K. Dick and H. P. Lovecraft. The campiness comes from me having a hard time acting my age.
Andreas Nilsson’s animated video for José González’ “Put Your Hand on Your Heart.”
You have done beautiful animation in the past – an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba, and videos like the Knife’s “Silent Shout” and José González’ “Put Your Hand on Your Heart,” among others. Do you plan to do more animation?
After years of doing animation, I got tired of key frames and felt I had to do live action to broaden my perspective. But I still love working with animation. I suppose I need to write a story that involves both again soon.
What is the most outlandish or challenging experience you have encountered in your work and why?
There are many outlandish and challenging experiences, and they are the reasons I do this. There is one in particular that is related to what I’m doing with Flux and Furlined at Soho House. The piece I’m showing at Soho House had also shown at the Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo. During the opening, a huge crowd of seagulls attacked and demolished the installation, spreading pancakes all over the place and making the entrance of the museum look like a dirty pancake festival. The next day I had to go to the police and explain myself. The police told me my art sucked.
Overlord, created by Andreas Nilsson with Bo Melin. Exhibited at Röda Sten, Gothenburg in 2002.
We’re very excited to have you in Los Angeles and that you will be presenting The Church of Pancakes here. Where did the inspiration come from? Why pancakes?
The installation is based on a rather famous case of a close encounter. Joe Simonton, a chicken farmer from Wisconsin, had visitors from space in 1961. The aliens left four pancakes in the hands of the confused farmer, and he tried to tell the world about his experience. He was ridiculed, of course. But to me, this is a very human and beautiful story. It’s folk art.
Me and some friends (Bo Melin, Mattias Karlsson and Daniel Jensen) created a quasi sect called Scrollen, which purpose was to bring the story of Joe Simonton to the people and celebrate him as a saint.
I have always been emotionally attached to people who are trying to spread the word of utopia, although I do believe I’m a pretty logical person! But I also come from a family that has ongoing discussions with ghosts and spirits, and shares a great belief in the unknown.
Do you have any upcoming projects that we can look forward to seeing soon?
I’m working on a play with Malin Stenberg at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. We are doing an adaptation of one of my favorite movies, Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf. I look forward to working with the Royal Dramatic Theatre’s amazing ensemble. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
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