Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s Prada Rong Zhai takeover is wonderfully weird

The whimsical exhibition inside the century-old villa may appear a bit strange but you can’t say it’s boring

Photograph: courtesy Prada Rong Zhai
On the second floor of Prada Rong Zhai, a lush tea party has been turned into a hot mess, the protagonists from the famous Rococo painting ‘The Swing’ have found themselves in a fantasyland inhabited by grotesque creatures and a pig’s quest to find out the secret of a dark forest has been interrupted by lollipops from the devil.

This is all part of the surreal animated world created by Swedish artistic duo Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, who have filled the second floor of the villa with their anthropomorphic animals, mysterious creatures and bizarre human characters. 'Fairy tales gone mad', as Djurberg calls it.

50.used-Dark Side of the Moon
Photograph: courtesy 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, is home to 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 a sculpture of an unsympathetically ugly bear which – judging by its crouched postiton – looks more like a giant mouse. Walk a little further and you’ll be greeted by two Alice in Wonderland-esque flower installations on revolving platforms. Behind those colourful flowers is a big screen showing an oil painting animation of a sunset, reminiscent of an Impressionist painting. While an odd combination of works, this hall sets the tone of the show – whimsical and fun, but it'll get a little uncomfortable too.

51.used-A Moon Wrapped in Brown Paper, Installation View, Ph. Alessandro Wang_06
Photograph: Alessandro Wang, courtesy Prada Rong Zhai

Continuing on to the next hall, there’s a number of animated films projected on several curved screens, arranged to make you feel like you’re walking into a labyrinth. Apart from coloured clay animations, you’ll see some charcoal ones that were used to depict more abstract imagery such as waterfalls, floods or a mud puddle that swallows everything in its way (even a pleading cow, the poor thing!). The music can be a little hard to hear, but when you do, Hans Berg has done a great job – the evocative soundtrack adds another dimension to the videos, setting the tone and bringing emotions to the fore.

50.used-A Moon Wrapped in Brown Paper, Installation View, Ph. Alessandro Wang_22
Photograph: courtesy Prada Rong Zhai

No matter how you choose to interpret the pair’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 stunning – come during the day to make the most of the historic villa’s surroundings (walk on the manicured lawn and rest your arms on the balcony above). Then when it gets darker, delve deep into the exhibition inside for what is really a bizarre dream.


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