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Saturday 31 Jan 2015
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Nathalie Djurberg, The Natural Selection (still), 2006
columbus. An exhibition of work by the Berlin-based Swedish artist Nathalie Djurberg at the Wexner Center for the Arts is described as “the most significant presentation of the artist’s work in an American museum to date” by the show’s curator, Christopher Bedford. Djurberg has become a biennial favourite with her unsettling animated films that depict themes such as war, violence, racism, abuse of power, colonialism and sexual exploitation. The show includes four recent video works: New Movements in Fashion, 2006; The Experiment: Greed, 2009; The Natural Selection, 2006; and It’s All About Painting, 2007, together with a selection of puppets and sculptures used in her videos that rarely go on public display.
Djurberg’s works have been likened to twisted fairy tales, featuring mutilations, monsters, maggots and excrement. Her no-holds-barred view of humanity is all the more disturbing because her jerky, stop-motion animation technique of “claymation” is most commonly associated with children’s entertainment. “While her subjects tend towards the darker end of human nature, she addresses those subjects using a clay animation technique so deft and absorbing that even the most challenging, sometimes abject imagery is made mesmerising,” says Bedford. The works are accompanied by music composed by Hans Berg.
In The Natural Selection, one of the works on view, a group of African figures obeys orders written on a wall by an unseen, god-like figure. Last year, Djurberg told The New York Times: “I was [initially] very nervous about showing it. But when I did, I realised that 99% of the people seeing it are white, and it was obvious how segregated the art world really is. It’s scary, but you have to ask questions.” This approach is laced with humour. “The comic side makes [the films] possible to bear,” she said.
A sculptural work drawn from The Experiment: Greed is on show along with other examples of Djurberg’s Plasticine puppets. “These sculptures, rarely seen and drawn from both private and institutional collections, are made by hand with no assistants, then manipulated by Djurberg hundreds of times in the production of her videos,” says Bedford.
Her installation at the Venice Biennale in 2009, a grotesque Garden of Eden filled with nightmarish triffid-esque foliage, won her the Silver Lion for best young artist. “Just as her subjects repel, so the formal treatment of those [aforementioned] themes rivets the eye, holding the viewer’s attention on a knife-edge of fascination and discomfort. In short, I think it is very difficult to turn away from her work, even if half of you wants to do just that,” says Bedford. n Gareth Harris
Categories: Contemporary (1970-present)
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Video & new media
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