Lisson Gallery

Screenings | Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg

Screenings | Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg
This is Heaven

At first glance, Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s This is Heaven (6 mins 39 secs, 2019) appears to depart from the deep, dark underworlds explored in the artists’ previous stop-motion animated films. One Need Not be a House, The Brain Has Corridors (2018), for example, plays out through a labyrinth of down-lit hallways like those of a haunted house, whilst numerous others take a singular, cell-like room as their stage. Here, the surreal landscape of pastel-coloured clouds formed from voluminous mattresses offers a dreamlike vision of a comfortable afterlife, amplified by Hans Berg’s airy, synthesized score. Any sense of comfort, however, is short lived. As the film’s protagonist awakes in his lofty bed, his eyes blink into jewel-encrusted discs at the realisation of the paradise surrounding him. “This must be it”, he exclaims proudly, assuming his new surroundings to be a reward, and thus his for the taking.

This is Heaven unfolds as a humorously sinister parody of the aspirations of humankind. A parable about wealth and power, and the associated costs to our existence in the pursuit of all that glistens, this is one of a number of new films that continue Djurbgerg and Berg’s interrogation of themes including need, longing, personal growth and, likewise, regression. Mixing animation, sculpture and sound, the pair create psychologically-charged scenarios dealing with human and animalistic desires, and have been working collaboratively since 2004. Djurberg’s distinctive style of filmmaking using clay animation dramatizes the basest of natural instincts from jealousy, revenge and greed, to submission and lust. Musician and composer Hans Berg conjures up the atmospheric sound effects and scores the hypnotic music for Djurberg’s animations and installations.

In what resembles a Tibetan Buddhist mask, traditionally worn to alter one’s identity, the hairy creature takes in the scene and is soon joined by a flock of brightly-plumed birds, adorned with medals and pendants. Overcome by greed, he proceeds to seize a medal (emblazoned with the number one) from the neck of a struggling bird, and drapes it around his. Djurberg gradually introduces a host of other characters that take their inspiration from religion, folklore, fairy tales and popular culture. Alongside the exotic birds, a mythological sow, her piglets and a sacred cow, is a smiling, lilac-maned pony. All dreamlike in their exaggerated qualities, they are also all in possession of jewellery, trophies, regal fur robes, and heavy bags of gold. One by one the central creature targets the fellow inhabitants of his paradise, taking their possessions through force, while too blinded by desire to notice the fate that will soon befall him.

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