NATHALIE DJURBERG AND HANS BERG: Controversial Collaborators
Interview by Andrea Blanch
ANDREA BLANCH: While aesthetically your short-films may present as faux-naïve, the subject matter you grapple with is profoundly complex and explores some of the basest of human emotions present. As part of your exploration into human nature, have you been able to gage people’s reactions, and were those reactions consistent with your initial intent?
NATHALIE DJURBERG: Outside reactions are not always consistent with my intention or my interpretation of my own work, however, I believe strongly that once the work leaves the studio it no longer belongs to me and that, even if I don’t agree, everyone’s interpretation is right. Right for them, because no matter how we turn it, everybody’s experience takes place in their own head. And, since everyone is so alike, being a human being and experiencing the same senses, and yet so unalike because of each person’s personal background and experiences, what anyone sees is filtered through both these similar and dissimilar factors.
ANDREA: Your trio of recent films are more sexually intense. Some of your past films like Hungry Hungry Hippos (2007) and Snakes Knows It’s Yoga (2010), where characters are abused or dismembered, have sexual as well as violent undertones. What do you think about the medium of Claymation that lends itself to the portrayal of sex and violence (often associated) and does it offer anything new to this conversation?
NATHALIE: The reason for making claymation or stop motion is because this medium suits me well. I don’t have to hire actors or build-up huge sets. I also don’t have to have one image stand by itself, even if I wish I could. I can have thousands. What I’m trying to say, is that you should use whatever medium works for you like I do for me. The content is what I’m interested in. The complexity of human desire that leads to power structures hiding shame and guilt and manipulation, or just the exploration of the human experience through a medium that makes everything banal or bearable. In one sense it also allows you to be able to watch and face something without the same amount of resistance as you would if you watch a movie or photographs because it is obvious that this is not real. Even though the problematics are real in the world.
ANDREA: Owning up to one’s secrets is a kind of intellectual capital and a form of empowerment in Dark Side of the Moon (2017), where the central female character flounders from damsel-like to infantile. She attempts to enter a Hansel and Gretel like structure and is taunted by devilish creatures holding thought bubbles with phrases like “No VIP,” “No Access,” and “Is it a secret?” Is sexuality empowering to women or are they excluded in the mix and not allowed the same VIP access as men?
NATHALIE: Well, it looks like that’s luckily changing, even if there is still a long way to go. But looking at something global you still have to come back to yourself to see what horrible secrets you think you host. And once you look, you discover that they aren’t as dark as you imagined, or even that where you thought they were is just space now. I think, at least for myself, no matter what takes place globally, I still have to solve my own shit and remember that I have to take my own power and decisions, and to see that many times I’m the only one limiting me. I just continue believing that someone else is deciding and that’s a privilege not every woman or man has.
ANDREA: In the U.S. there is much debate between the sexes over what constitutes sexual exploitation noting the #Metoo culture? As a member of a different country, what have you observed of this power struggle between men and women, and does your work partake in this topic of gender inequality?
NATHALIE: It’s very big in Sweden too. It takes place in my work to the extent that it concerns me. I think it’s great that it has happened and is happening. It needs to come out. At the same time, I also see in many situations from my own experience that I had an agenda, and that is my responsibility too.
ANDREA: There is a kind of underbelly to the work that speaks directly to what Freud would harken to our subconscious, which at times borders on a dream or orgiastic nightmare. Which begs the question, as to who is actually in control, people or their impulses? Who is actually in control in these works?
NATHALIE: Haha, mmm yes. I actually don’t like Freud so much but prefer Jung. But, yes, who’s in control? I am, to a large extent. I can make an idea, or let it be. Make an action in animation, or not. But where does it come from? I was never there to see how an idea got made. I saw myself participate in the world and was confused. Then, I thought I understood something and then noticed that I missed the other side of it. So the ideas come from an urge to understand, but I never witnessed myself making an idea. The making of an animation or artwork comes out of the urge to re-experience something in a different way, or experience/examine it through action but in a controlled way, or the only way available to me.
To read the full interview with Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg click here.