NATHALIE DJURBERG & HANS BERG

It Will End in Stars, 2018

Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin

From 25 January until 26 April 2020

by Elda Oreto

It Will End in Stars (2018) is a virtual reality project by Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg for Acute Art (www.acuteart.org). The project, directed and curated by Daniel Birnbaum, will be exhibited until April 26, 2020 at the Julia Stoschek Collection (www.jsc.art). Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg create an interactive VR work that combines the aesthetic of a video game with that of an escape room. The work investigates freedom of choice and the way each of us reacts to different possibilities. In order to make tangible the importance of decisions and intentions in human action, the work requires the viewer to move and operate “actively” within the virtual space. A sensor detects hand movements and causes the VR to react accordingly.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

The viewer of the work, once the VR glasses are on, has access to the virtual landscape: in a dark wood faces the first decision — to enter an abandoned hut or to remain in the woods, wandering aimlessly, exposed to unknown dangers. Entering the hut, inside, there is a gray wolf sitting on an armchair near a fireplace. Around him are scattered various objects, including a gramophone and a skull. Enclosed in a small birdcage, hanging from the ceiling, there is a miniature woman. Djurberg’s disturbing images recall the typical motifs of her work, creating an alienating and obscene world, like those described in certain nursery rhymes for children. Djurberg continues her artistic research into the archetypes of western mindsets, with her charcoal drawings in black and white, together with text inserts and a soundtrack by Hans Berg. Strange words appear suspended in mid-air. They remind us of the voices in our dreams: they make sense but are truncated and only partially intelligible. Among the writings, two passages captivate the attention: Let’s keep memories they make me company… I am scared… 

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

The interactive element of It Will End in Stars requires the viewer to find an element or an object that activates the next level, in order to continue along the path and reach the end. The viewer must perform various actions: offering the wolf a cigarette, lighting it, touching the skull, touching the gramophone to make the wolf dance and finally, touching the woman in the cage. Performing these operations in succession allows to enter another dimension — the patio of a temple, where the tiny woman becomes a giant. While flashing, the woman turns into a skeleton that resembles some kind of primitive deity. Walking under the huge legs of the giant, who, among other things, seems to have cannibalistic intentions, one is able to escape the temple, becoming free into a starry universe.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

In It Will End in Stars, each choice leads to another choice and then to more. Time is always an eternal now, with a constantly flexible perimeter. If a choice we have made has not led us anywhere, we can correct it and revise it; we can go back and change it. There is no “game-over.” The past is reversible, without guilt. This double interactive and simultaneously programmed nature of VR creates a sense of openness to infinite possibilities accompanied by a limitation of choice.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

In Djurberg & Berg VR, what we encounter is more than a crossroad, it is like a three way junction. The past lies behind us, with the choices we have made (like the dark, endless wood); ahead of us is a future with two possibilities: following established habits (like the wolf on the chair who smokes cigarettes), repeating the choices of the past infinitely, inevitably leading us to the same point, as in a vicious circle, or changing, overcoming our fears (the woman in the cage) and evolving into something unexpected and bigger (the starry sky).

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s research revolves around the primary fears and instincts of the human soul – jealousy, avarice, lust – analyzing them when they are still in a primitive and concrete state and not yet defined abstractly as feelings, bound by logical measures and moral norms. The complex symbolic universe they create represents a short journey inside the dark zone of our soul, reflecting the opportunities that a person encounters in every moment of life, on order to achieve what he wants. Their work combines Djurberg’s characteristic clay animation, which she developed in 2001, and Berg’s hypnotic musical compositions and sound effects. By mixing cinema, sculpture and performance, their most recent works have also created immersive environments rich in symbolic meaning. These works include We Are Not Two We Are One (2008) and Tiger Licking a Girls’ Butt (2004), which present a visionary world made up of grotesque figures and anguished atmospheres. The artistic duo exhibited together at various events including The Secret Garden (2016) at the Shanghai 21st Century Minsheng Art Museum, China; the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art and the Australian Center for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. They have also participated in group exhibitions, including the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009). 

Nathalie Djurberg was born in Lysekil, Sweden in 1978, and she received an MFA at the Malmö Art Academy, Sweden in 2002. Hans Berg was born in Rättvik, Sweden in 1978, and he is a musician, producer and composer, working mainly with electronic music. Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg live and work in Berlin, Germany.