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DJURBERG, Nathalie; "Putting down the prey

Since the late 1990s, Nathalie DJURBERG’s stop-frame animations with a hand-made aesthetic have explored realms of fantasies, dreams and sexuality. Using plasticine and domestic materials, she crafts extraordinary animations that are highly regarded for their complexity and intensity. Djurberg received the prestigious award ‘Silver Lion for a Promising Young Artist’ for her work ‘Experimentat’ 2009 in Fare Mondi / Making Worlds, at the 53rd Venice Biennale, Itay. The often uncomfortable emotional and psychological effects of her work are augmented by compelling music and sound design by her partner, Swedish composer Hans Berg.

‘Putting down the prey’ 2008 was a key work in Djurberg’s survey exhibition, ‘Turn into me’. The work is set in the Arctic as a lone female hunter tracks a walrus over the ice. Spearing the magnificent animal, she slaughters it, guts it and proceeds to separate its skin from its carcass. The woman then undresses from her fur-skin clothes and cloaks herself in the skin of the walrus and sews herself into it from the inside. With the transformation of the huntress’s appearance she becomes the walrus and returns to the icy water to frolic and disappear into the depths. Characteristically, Djurberg introduces an element of the absurd by adopting the perspective of the prey as well as a gender switch (a tusked walrus being typically male). There may also be a reference to ‘selkie’ myths that derive from Icelandic, Irish and Scottish folklore (and have Swedish equivalents) which refer to shape-shifting seals which become human by shedding their skins. Djurberg would appear to have inverted the myth.

Djurberg’s method of veiling sometimes difficult content in the whimsical and slightly clumsy form of claymation, adds to the power of her work. Many fairytales and fables, particularly from northern Europe, have traditionally addressed fear or threat with children as the main protagonists confronting monsters, tricksters and predatory beings. In a 2008 ArtReview article, Laura Allsop states that, Djurberg’s practice skilfully dramatises, ‘not only children’s fear of adults but adult’s fear of children’.(1) Djurberg builds on the often bizarre possibilities of childhood imagination to point to issues in the contemporary world such as fashion and youth culture, sexual politics and organised religion.

1. Allsop, Laura. ‘Nathalie Djurberg’. ‘ArtReview’, March 2008, p.9.