Monday, June 22, 2009

Nathalie Djurberg talk at the Venice Biennale


For one of the Conversazione during the Venice Biennale preview, Nathalie Djurberg and her musical collaborator Hans Berg (right) talked with Massimiliano Gioni (left), co-curator of the Berlin Biennial and a curator at the New Museum. All three were young, relaxed, and enthusiastic, though what was most surprising about Nathalie was her quiet, understated, almost nervous self-effacement. Several times, Djurberg giggled and interrupted herself, as if she realized she were revealing too much. Which was actually the biggest surprise of all: in an hour-long talk, Djurberg went into surprising detail about her video work, stop-motion claymation, and her 130 huge flowers on display at the "Making Worlds" exhibit. Many artists remain stingy when talking about their work, but Djurberg showed confidence in the power and unique vision of her art, by unblinkingly "giving away" her methods, her moods, and her process.
Djurberg revealed a tenacious work method that explains her prodigious output: a self-described workaholic, she starts with the puppets, then works chronologically in constructing the story, background, and props. When the film is finished, everything but a few boxes of props is destroyed. Hans Berg starts composing the music electronically, in an abstract dialogue that accompanies the evolution of the storyline. Their relationship, both personal and professional, is endearingly complementary: she works too much, whereas he calls himself lazy and in need of outside pressure. In a very contemporary manner he has no problem following her lead, both in conversation and in activity. And yet the end result feels unmistakably like a collaboration: the odd unplaceable sounds and rhythms of the music underscore the twisted-fairytale nature of Djurberg's scenarios. You never know if the over-the-top gore, sadism, and sexual perversity is Jungian and within all of us or a byproduct of her own imagination.

Djurberg described how initially she studied sculpture in art school, and when she tried to paint was told the result was awful, so in revenge she made a sunset in Super-8 film, and discovered the joy of not having to choose one image or painting. I'm glad she stuck with it, as the resulting videos are all of the above--vivid color, twisted forms, and along with the soundtracks highly watchable stories that unfold in unpredictable ways.



Gioni (top), Djurberg and Berg goofing around after the talk.

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