The sweet and the gruesome
Interview with Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg

Issue no5
Oct-Nov 2021

The work of Nathalie Djurberg can be characterised by its contrast between the sweet and the gruesome. As of 2004 her clay animations are accompanied by the musical compositions of Hans Berg. From March 5th until May 1st Museum Boijmans van Beuningen displays the works of the Swedish artists. METROPOLIS M talked to Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, who live and work together in Berlin.

—Sanneke HuismanNathalie and Hans, you’ve been working together for almost seven years now. Can you tell us something about your collaboration?

—Nathalie DjurbergWhen we started working together, we talked a lot. For instance if the music for the animations should be carnival music, classical music, or techno music. But now we have worked together for so long that the discussions have become non-verbal. The work and the person got quite integrated in one another.

—Hans BergWe have our studios next to each other in our apartment, so I’m always inside her work. We don’t talk about the work that much, and when we do, we tend to discuss things around it, like the themes and the symbolism. We have the same subjects on our mind.

—Nathalie DjurbergIt’s funny to see that when you walk in a certain direction suddenly you notice that he is walking in the same direction. For instance, the films Snakes Knows it’s Yoga and the untitled film, with the working title Acid and a couple of others that I’m working on, are becoming more abstract. When I noticed that Hans’ music was also becoming more abstract, I realised we were going in the same direction. Of course he is following the animations in one way, but I hear that there is another state of mind in the making of it. I can hear in the music that there are thin layers, before that it was more bombastic.

—Sanneke HuismanCan you ever imagine your work without Hans’ music?

—Nathalie DjurbergNo, no. When he dies, I will stop making art.

—Sanneke HuismanSince the Venice Biennale in 2009, you often show sculptures besides your films. In this exhibition a lot of sculptures are placed in front of your animations. How do the sculptures in the exhibition relate to the films?

—Nathalie DjurbergThe idea was to put the two films, Snakes Knows it’s Yoga and the one with the working title Acid, opposite each other in the room. In both films you have a timeline: something is happening and you can see that. The puppets or sculptures on the other hand, don’t have a timeline. They are like fragmented aesthetics, with every possibility still in them. It is clear that something has happened, but you only have this fragment, and nothing around it. It's a universe of frozen moments.

—Sanneke HuismanWere you deeply involved in making the exhibition in Museum Boijmans van Beuningen? And is it the same exhibition as in Kestnergesellschaft (Hannover, 2/9/2010 - 7/11/10)?

—Nathalie DjurbergWe worked very close with the director Sjarel Ex, he is the curator of the exhibition. In Kestnergesellschaft there were only two films and the sculptures. Here in Rotterdam we added some older films, the cushions and the coloured window. The cushions are very important for me. I made them here. I wanted them to be paintings. And I like the idea that you can pick one, bring it with you and sit on it. You can sit on a painting, even on the one you like the most. That makes painting a bit more down to earth. Normally a painting has so much value and here you can sit on it.

—Sanneke HuismanAre you downgrading painting?

—Nathalie DjurbergNo, I actually really want to paint. But normally I don’t think I’m good enough at it. However, for this project I don’t have to think that. The cushions are good enough for what they are now. They’re not just hanging on the wall by themselves; they’re only a part of the exhibition.

—Sanneke HuismanDo you want to be a painter?

—Nathalie DjurbergI once said that when reincarnation would exist, I wanted to be reborn as a Buddhist monk, but also as a painter. And after a while I thought: fuck that! Why can’t I be a painter in this life? But that would be scary, because I have no confidence in my painting qualities. And if you don’t have enough confidence, you can use the skills you do have in another way. I use painting in the animations all the time, but in another field, where you’re not judged as much as in the field of painting. And that makes it easier. But I really want to paint, and that people think: oh, I want to take this home.

Museum Boijmans van Beuningen
Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg - Snakes Knows It's Yoga
5 March - 1 May

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 5 — 2021