The takeover of Prada Rong Zhai by Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg is wonderfully strange
On the second floor of Prada Rong Zhai, a lush tea turned into a burning mess, the protagonists of the famous rococo painting ‘The Swing’ found themselves in a fantasy land inhabited by grotesque creatures and a pig’s quest for discovering the secret of a dark forest has been interrupted by devil’s lollipops.
It’s all part of the surreal animated world created by Swedish artist duo Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, who filled the second floor of the villa with their anthropomorphic animals, mysterious creatures and bizarre human figures. “Fairy tales gone mad”, as Djurberg calls it.
Photography: courtesy of the artists; Tanya Bonakdar, New York / Los Angeles; Gió Marconi, Milan; Lisson Gallery, London (Dark Side of the Moon, 2017, Stop motion animation, 06:40 min)
The small exhibition, titled A Moon Wrapped in Brown Paper, houses a dozen sculptures and videos by Djurberg with music composed by Berg between 2000 and 2019. The first exhibition hall is quite empty except for one sculpture. of an unfriendly ugly bear that – judging by its crouching position – looks more like a giant mouse. Walk a little further and you’ll be greeted by two Alice in Wonderland flower installations on rotating platforms. Behind these colorful flowers is a large screen showing an oil painting animation of a sunset, reminiscent of an impressionist painting. Although being a strange combination of works, this room sets the tone for the show – whimsical and fun, but it will also get a little uncomfortable.
Photograph: Alessandro Wang, courtesy of Prada Rong Zhai
Continuing to the next room, there are a number of animated films projected onto multiple curved screens, arranged to make you feel like you’re walking through a maze. Besides the colored clay animations, you will see charcoal animations which have been used to depict more abstract images such as waterfalls, flooding, or a mud puddle that swallows everything in its path (even a begging cow, poor thing! ). The music can be a little hard to hear, but when you do, Hans Berg did a great job – the evocative soundtrack adds another dimension to the videos, setting the tone and bringing the emotions to the fore.
Photograph: Courtesy of Prada Rong Zhai
No matter how you choose to interpret the duo’s immersive installations in A Moon Wrapped in Brown Paper, you won’t regret the experience. While the show itself isn’t huge, the setting has enough to explore. The century-old residence restored by Italian luxury brand Prada is beautiful – come during the day to make the most of the surroundings of the historic villa (walk on the manicured lawn and rest your arms on the balcony above). Then, when it gets darker, dive deep into the exhibit inside for what is truly a bizarre dream.