Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Parade: Nathalie Djurberg

One of the most arresting art shows I have been privy too in the last year was without a doubt The Parade by Nathalie Djurberg which I saw at the New Museum down in the Bowery in New York.  

The show consists of a mix of eighty-two bird sculptures, composed from painted canvas, wire, and clay materials, which accompany five videos interspersed throughout the exhibit.  The videos feature nightmarish claymation shorts. 

Entering into the show is initially unsettling, although the group of bird sculptures are colourful and grand in design, the sheer volume is intimidating.  As you journey through the show, you feel you are being stalked, as if you have been selected as prey.

We are guided by the overseeing birds to each film, each a provocative document of the human condition.  Greed; violence; the exotic, unknown other; all culminates in a staggering final short, "The Parade of Rituals and Stereotypes," depicting the grotesque dominance of prejudice; of the racial, gender, and religious capacity.  One of the figures literally "irons out" another, eradicating the person's right to freedom.

An evocative show that demands analysis, themes that we assume have been previously dealt with at length are spectacularly readdressed by Djurberg. She herself has said:

"In the sculptures, Ms. Djurberg said, “I’m trying to show how birds are always trying to get the upper hand” with one another, as evidenced by aggressive expressions and combative poses. The films, which are at times quite violent, with clay figures being mutilated and oozing luridly colored blood, address more “hidden emotions, things that we don’t let out,” she said."

These hidden emotions equate to the upheaval that the 20th century brought with. Although an impressive and successful progress has occurred in terms of civil rights movements, Djurberg's show appears to allude to the suppressed hangover society society still harbor. The monstrous clay figure seem to insinuate that a Jekyll and Hyde quality still exists beneath the remnants of progress.

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