The Parade: explorations of the perverse and the taboo

Nathalie Djurberg brings her haunting reflection on human nature to the Walker Art Center

Just one of Djurbergs 83 depraved bird statues

Photo Courtesy Walker Art Center

Just one of Djurberg’s 83 depraved bird statues

by Carter Haaland

What: The Parade exhibit

When: 9/8-12/31

Where: The Walker Art Center

Cost: $10 Adults, $6 Students, free Thursday evenings


Currently resting at the Walker Art Center is a flock of birds that make that one Alfred Hitchcock film seem like a childrenâÄôs movie. These luscious yet disturbing bird sculptures are just one part of the paradoxical universe created by Swedish artist Nathalie Djurberg.

The exhibit also features five beautifully grotesque new claymation films and the eerily quirky scores of DjurbergâÄôs longtime musical collaborator, Hans Berg.

âÄúThereâÄôs never been anything like this at the Walker before,âÄù said Eric Crosby, who co-curated the exhibit with Dean Otto. âÄúTheir art isnâÄôt very self-contained. It always tries to reach out beyond the limits of how we normally display art.âÄù

The exhibit isnâÄôt just a collection of work âÄî itâÄôs an environment. Upon entering, guests will be submerged in DjurbergâÄôs world. And in her world, the taboo becomes the norm, the perverse becomes common and gorgeous becomes synonymous with abject. ItâÄôs the kind of anarchic dystopia that reflects the absurdity of human nature.

 âÄúItâÄôs so easy to get caught up just living and not reflecting,âÄù Djurberg said. âÄúYouâÄôre so close to everything that you donâÄôt notice whatâÄôs really happening and why itâÄôs happening.âÄù

Her claymation films star naked figures that erupt with violent episodes of torture, rape, cannibalism and decapitation. But they donâÄôt understand why they desire to commit such hideous acts. The scenes of uncontrolled aggression transition fluidly into expressions of remorse and compassion. Djurberg has an innate ability to present seemingly opposed emotions in a way that blurs the line between them or perhaps eliminates the line altogether.

âÄúNathalie is very interested in the binary relationships that seem opposed, but sheâÄôs not interested in upholding the binary as much as she is really making it messy,âÄù Crosby said.

This contradicting duality is present in every one of her 83 bird sculptures. A large heron sculpture with soft, elegant feathers has a dry, crumbling neck. A vivacious, pink flamingo has a deformed leg. She plays with contrast and the dependencies that it creates âÄîlike the Taoist observation that by inventing âÄúgoodâÄù you inherently create âÄúbad.âÄù

âÄúThe grotesque is a way to show the beauty in something. You have to have something to compare with. If you only have something thatâÄôs beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, then what is it?âÄù Djurberg said.

 Her fascination with the despicable has manifested itself into a culmination of artistic products that you probably wouldnâÄôt want to view while eating. But despite the vile hysteria of her work, people canâÄôt seem to look away. In 2009, Djurberg was awarded the prestigious Silver Lion for a Promising Young Artist for her exhibition at the Biennale in Venice.  Since then, her work has been displayed all over Europe and the U.S.

And sheâÄôs just getting started. After the Walker, her nightmarish vision will head out on the road to New York and San Francisco. Djurberg has undoubtedly asserted herself as a controversial visionary bringing a healthy sense of discomfort wherever she goes.