‘It’s Great Until It Becomes Disgusting’: Watch Artists Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg Create a Weirdo Puppet Show About Shame

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg Share Their Feelings." © Art21, Inc. 2020.

“Where does the work end, and I begin?” Swedish artist Nathalie Djurberg asks in an exclusive new interview as part of Art21’s Extended Play series. “It’s so hard to differentiate,” she says, laughing, and a beat later, she groans: “that sounded so cheesy… even though it’s true!”

Although the fair-haired artist, who appears in the interview along with her creative partner, Hans Berg, looks nothing like the handmade clay figures that populate their surreal stop-motion videos, the feelings the work instils are ones she knows all to well.

“Shame is one of my predominant feelings,” she says frankly, explaining that negativity always feels like it can overwhelm a person entirely, while happy emotions, such as joy, seem to be fleeting.

“The fear of being trapped in that despair is like a lie that is so strong, it tricks me every time.”

Production still from the Art21 “Extended Play” film, “Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg Share Their Feelings.” © Art21, Inc. 2020.

For Berg, the musician in the duo, music is a way to heighten scenes and amplify these complicated emotions. While working on a frantic, aggressive video titled How to Slay a Dragon, for example, Berg says he was channelling feelings associated with addiction. The music, he says, is “almost like a siren song, luring you into something.” 

The videos are filled with nightmarish scenes of debauchery, with characters acting out their most primitive impulses in humorous, often cringe-inducing situations. Four of the films the duo created for a 2019 show at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York will be streamed for free on Art21’s website this week, celebrating the artists and their bizarre, hallucinatory rollicking work.

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series Extended Play, below. “Screening Room: Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg” is on view at Art21.org through May 5, 2020.

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch episodes of other series like “New York Close Up” and “Extended Play” and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.

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