Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg: The Gates of the Festival, Lisson Gallery

Mixing animation, sculpture and sound, Berlin-based artist duo, Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg create psychologically charged scenarios dealing with human and animalistic desires. The two combine Djurberg’s distinctive style of filmmaking, which uses clay animation to dramatise natural instincts from jealousy to submission, revenge to lust, with Berg’s atmospheric sound effects and hypnotic music. Their transgressive narratives are rich in symbolic meaning and emotional reach, mining allegorical myths and grotesque, nightmarish visions to produce dark, humorous and carnivalesque cinematic, built and performative installations.

Here they present a new direction with a series of works which sees sculptural interventions, projections, neon, film and music interwoven throughout Lisson in an immersive installation – eschewing video screens for animated surfaces and pulsating environments. Merging audio-visual and multimedia elements, Djurberg & Berg’s debut show with the gallery melds together as one continuous work of art, albeit constructed of discrete events and individual experiences.

One room presents an installation of 10 waist-high urns, standing in two rows, each of which contains a small, unique animation relating to the possible contents, as well as a specially composed piece of music, which resonates deep within the ceramic vessel. In another gallery, projection and beat-laden musical soundtracks transform four white tables into luminescent sculptures whose tops are enlivened by flowing depictions of amoebic organisms, malleable matter and clouds liquefying back to rain and seawater.

The central installation at Lisson Gallery, entitled The Gates of the Festival, reveals the significance of Berg’s music as a unifying force: in this exhilarating, surround-sound work, 12 neon shapes hung from the ceiling are illuminated according to notes or tones programmed by Berg, with different frequencies performing certain actions – the sounds seemingly “playing” the installation. Across the walls, three abstract, crayon-drawn animations add to the all-enveloping atmosphere, punctuated by the moving image of a gangly claymation bird, projected in the round on a slowly revolving carousel.

Feathery, flying creatures of this kind represent the collective’s abiding interest in the darker niches of the natural world; and further glimpsed here in a smaller animation of the morphing wings of a butterfly, given a psychological depth by its visual relationship to squirming Rorschach blots.

Just as Djurberg & Berg produce art symbiotically to create their own singular and beguiling world, the ideas, sounds and images they conjure also propose a synaesthetic interrelationship between the realms of the visible, the audible and the imaginary.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg: The Gates of the Festival, until 1 November, Lisson Gallery, 52 Bell Street, London NW1 5DA.

1. Video courtesy of Lisson Gallery and YouTube.
2. Gates of the Festival 2014 Neon, stop motion animation, HD video, 4 channel surround sound.