Nathalie Djurberg: A World of Glass

The new exhibition at Camden Arts Centre, A World of Glass by Nathalie Djurberg with music by Hans Berg, is probably the best exhibition I’ve seen there – and elsewhere – for months.

Nathalie Djurberg works chiefly with stop-motion animation, creating short films which address very complex adult themes that their childish appearance belies. The apparent simplicity of the work is completely at odds with its subject matter and the arduous process involved creating this kind of work Some of her earlier films epict – for example – a female eskimo slaughtering a walrus, disembowelling it, and then climbing inside the carcass and swimming off; or a woman whose children climb back inside her vagina, after which their limbs start protruding through her skin, turning her into a multi-limbed and awkward beast… Wallace and Gromit it ain’t.

A World Of Glass is composed of four short films, music, and a series of ‘glass’ sculptures. The sculptures are not, in fact glass, but a kind of plastic. This is because they are actually casts of many different objects, moulded together with clay, which creates wonderfully strange fragile-looking sculptures like otherworldly towers of glassware; tables set for a strange feast, perhaps. Some even resemble stalagmites in the way they seem to rise shakily and unevenly from the tables. Indeed, the lighting and the tinkling, echoing music does create a cavernous atmosphere. It all brings to mind Alice’s topsy turvy through-the-looking-glass world, and every nursey rhyme or fairy tale you’ve ever heard. This exhibition taps into something essentially very dark, but childlike too – Brothers Grimm eat your heart out.

Hans Berg – who creates the music for all her films – has added an unusual twist to this exhibition, making just one soundtrack for all four films. This creates a spectacularly immersive effect which builds through the exhibition as the audience becomes more aware of the links being made between the audio and the visual, as the musical arcs correlate to the story progression. It’s atmospheric, challenging, gripping, often surprising and not without humour. Expect animals, animalism, nudity, violence, gore, sadness, desperation and fear… with a sprinkling of humanity, beauty and wonder. Great stuff.


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