A World of Glass - Camden Art Centre

Swedish artist Nathalie Djurberg filled Galleries One and Two with luminous, glass-like objects and four new animated films.

The installation was immersed in a syncronised soundscape composed by her collaborator Hans Berg, featuring rhythmic percussion and sounds of tinkling glass that evoke a strange and compelling atmosphere.

Djurberg creates her films with a technique referred to as ‘claymation’. At the Venice Biennale in 2009, she embedded the animations amongst a sprawling jungle of life-sized sculptures immersing the viewer within the immediate materiality of the images depicted on screen. Similarly, A World of Glass displays the luminous sculptures that appear in the films, made from polyurethene – a material that shares the apparent fragility and elegance of glass.

The crude materiality of the animations seemed playful but the scenarios enacted are often disturbing, uncovering taboos or difficult aspects of the human condition such as vulnerability, desire and suffering. The four new films – My body is a house of glass; Monster; Didn’t you know I’m made of butter?; and I’m a wild animal – address a shared theme of sexual discovery, exploring the untamed forces that drive desire and the fragile, precarious nature of this rite-of-passage. The beguiling beauty of the installation contrasts with scenes of wounded flesh or emotional distress, drawing out the connection between desire and suffering, a theme explored by Bataille when he discussed the transgression of taboos in relation to the sometimes violent drives of sexuality. The dark and foreboding atmosphere of the installation also links Djurberg’s work to the subversive imagination of Goya.

Populated by animal characters including a fox, an owl, a crocodile, a hippo and a bull, the animations resembled folk- or fairy tales. However, Djurberg’s stories did not carry moral judgement but rather placed the viewer into a position where they can make their own assessment of the situations that unfold.

Djurberg flooded the Central Space with colour, suggesting both the dark hues of a sunset and the warmth and hope of sunrise. A series of earlier animations was shown in the Reading Room.

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