The encounter with the films of Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg has something of a seduction — they immediately attract the viewer into colorful worlds, accompanied by hypnotic music.
The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is presenting the Swedish artist duo’s oeuvre for the first time in Germany in an extensive survey exhibition. On display are some forty video and sound works from the past two decades. Their playfully told, dismal fables full of black humor examine the great questions of humankind.
Nathalie Djurberg became known for her stop-motion films as early as 2003 — a slow, very elaborate animation technique in which a series of stills creates the illusion of movement, for which Hans Berg has provided the music since 2004. For each Film Berg composes a specific sound. The exhibition sheds light on Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s joint artistic oeuvre. Both members of the artist duo work intuitively in their own medium—without a script, a storyboard, or a predetermined dramatic curve. The process-related character of their work is foregrounded: it does not try to arrive at an end, but instead comes down to the process itself. Through the interplay of sculpture, moving pictures, and sound, the viewers get caught up in a maelstrom that is virtually impossible to resist.
The films explore the limits of human endurance
The artists take visitors to the exhibition on a journey into the interior of humankind—with films that resemble absurd dreams and suppressed memories and explore the limits of what is humanly tolerable in a dense atmosphere.
The exhibition is grouped around three large-format installations, which have never before been presented to the public in Germany together: “The Parade” (2011), “The Potato” (2008), and “The Experiment” (2009). The earliest works in the exhibition are from 2003 and were created before Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg began collaborating. The artist continues to regard herself first and foremost as a painter until today. The first films with clay animation were simple, short scenes, which then became more complex, and, starting in 2004, have been supplemented with music composed specifically for them by Hans Berg.
The exhibition also presents numerous works produced in the past few years, including the two sculptures “Cheer Up—Yes You Are Weak And Yes, Life is Hard” (2018) and “My Fixation With Making You Happy And Content” (2018). As in many of Djurberg and Berg’s works, the animal world is humanized here—a means for depicting human brutality and bestiality that is familiar from fables or fairytales.
The artists' first virtual reality work is also on display
With their first work created in virtual reality (VR), “It Will End in Stars” (2018), the artists have tried out a new narrative method for the first time specifically for the exhibition. It nevertheless remains their own and builds on traditional analogue techniques, on hand drawings and sculpted figures, that have been painstakingly scanned and animated. The work is experienced in a setting that combines their handcrafted style with digital technology.
There are also strong references to Djurberg’s early animated charcoal drawings. One of the completely new works presented in the exhibition is “One Need Not Be a House, The Brain Has Corridors” (2018). Pulsing music accompanies viewers through winding corridors in which characters from earlier films such as the wolf—perhaps an alter ego of Djurberg— reappear.