Tiger Licking Girl's Butt
ed. 6 + 2 artist copy
Courtesy Mogadishni Copenhagen
Distributing clay animation | Films by Nathalie Djurberg
By Helle Ryberg, curator, 2005
The Swedish artist Nathalie Djurberg works with animation films which are inhabited by clay figures in a strange universe. The short films are often no longer than five minutes but they manage however to tell stories about the human condition mixed both with black humour and seriousness. The stories deal with topics such as war, violence, sexuality, sadism and assault in an investigation of the darker side of the human soul.
The stories often take place in a forest or urban settings such as small and somewhat claustrophobic rooms where grotesque episodes play out. The stories all seem to have a strict narrative development where the initial scene is peaceful and playful but the story changes character completely into something profoundly unsettling. This sudden change leaves the viewer disturbed and as a passive witness to the grotesque.
An example is the film Florentin (2004) where two young girls initially play with an adult man. Suddenly the scene turns violent; the adult starts to spank the girls who decide to get back at the man. They end up molesting him and jumping upon him in laughter. The power has shifted and the victims become the conquerors - even though it is through amoral methods.
The music by Hans Berg in the films is dominating and with its almost psychopathic cheerful rhythm it hints to the fact that there's something wrong and something is about to fall apart. The mood becomes frantic. Besides the music there's different sounds incorporated in the films often connected to the violent acts. In some of the films the sparse childish dialogue is written on pieces of paper but in majority the story is told through the images and music.
Djurberg's stories have a lot in common with traditional folktales. They deal with archetypical themes and involve traditional roles as the good, the bad and the kind helper. The films also have animals as characters e.g. the wolf, the bear and the tiger. As in tales strange and magical things happen in Djurberg's films; animals speak, trees walk and humans fly and talk with animals. Like in traditional tales the films have shocking and gruesome elements which occur after the narrative turning-point in the story. After this turn of events the films no longer look like children's TV but rather as a scary x-rated fantasy without any moral.
The visual shifts between the raw and the naпve, the grotesque and the lyrical seem to be easier to get away with by using clay figures which the viewer associates with something childish and playful. The unsettling sets in when we see what cute clay figures are capable of doing. Sardonic humour is used to draw a fine line between laughter and crying but the grotesque situations more often leave the figures in tears upon which the camera zooms. The sadness is used to show both a kind of remorse but also a feeling of frustration.
"Das unheimliche" the "un-homely"; a term used by Freud can be seen in relation to Djurberg's films, which have an existential feeling of suspense and uneasiness. A world is about to fall apart and even though it's made of clay it strongly relates to themes of human reality.
1978 born in Lysekil, Sweden
Lives and works in Berlin, Germany
1994-1995 Folkuniversitetet, Basic Art Education, Gothenburg
1995-1997 Hovedskous, Art School, Gothenburg
1997-2002 Malmo Art Academy (Masters degree)