Sweet by Stina Nyberg | Review

Words by Francesca Matthys. Sweet was performed at APT Gallery on the 29th November as part of Fest en Fest 2022. 

Sweet by Stina Nyberg is a unique piece of art that I was fortunate to witness. I was encouraged to take up one of the remaining seats in the circle of chairs around the performance space as I shuffled my way in. I always feel a sense of heightened anticipation for how the space will be used when set up in the round. As the audience was confronted with not only each other but the prospect of what was to come, the tension in the space grew as we awaited the performer. 

There was an obscure sound desk that closed the round on one end, adorned with flowers. It looked like there were also strawberries and cheese, an altar and offering. Two individuals sat side by side preoccupied by their laptops. Almost as if at a call centre or immersed in the world of a virtual game, not at all bothered by their onlookers.

One of the individuals approached the circle of chairs wearing a puffer jacket, tracksuit trousers and a pair of formal loafers. Attire that would be commonplace in any trendy London or European area. Grounding the performer in the contemporary as someone easily relatable was Stina Nyberg. 

This sense of the everyday soon shifted as the performer began to almost puppeteer their puffer jacket and create a streetwear creature that puffed smoke from its mouth and growled as it explored and became accustomed to the space, cheekily teasing us. This use of costume where sleeve became trunk and collar became mouth, was fascinating and allowed the audience to be baptised into the work through pure play.

This brief yet alluring ‘emergence’ moment of the work transitioned into Nyberg telling the story of a new species that came to be ‘perhaps two hundred years ago’. She went on to declare the destructiveness of this creature and how they were pure assholes. I immediately thought of humanity and how we have destroyed almost everything we as a civilisation have had the privilege of laying our hands on. Nyberg’s direct yet inviting nature made it an easy journey and allowed us to be confronted by the damage that our species had potentially done. 

Nyberg soon began to indulge herself and us in an extended dance that morphed in and out of an internal groove that seemed both liberating and inhibiting at times. Shifting to more primal primate-like postures as well as extending and flicking to her extremities, this dance that travelled around the circle felt like a very candid movement journey that revealed many quirky and satisfying idiosyncrasies in the hips and face. An evolution of dance or dance as a tool to explore evolution. Nyberg by now was wearing a fitted pair of jeans and a check shirt, resembled a cowboy coltishly exploring a vast landscape accompanied by her mischievous grin.

The final section of the work is what I recall as a ‘memory’ monologue. Nyberg transports us into moments from what we can assume are her life, but that blur into even being our own lives as the audience. From the most macro to the most intimate moments with a lover, with a friend, with herself. Memory is a peculiar thing to explore in live performance as when reflecting on the work, one is remembering a memory within a memory, transient and sometimes a futile experience that should maybe be left to simmer and only feel in the present moment. Regardless of this, I do somehow remember how Nyberg’s remembrance made me feel, at home in space and in my own body as the nostalgia of long ago filled every orifice. 

The work closed with Nyberg retreating back to her desk where she had been oblivious to us perhaps, started the performance yet this time her presence was known and her stories told. 

As someone who relishes in text, I found this work refreshing and moving though I still hope to see a further integration of dense texts and movement in a way that will captivate an audience for an extended period. Nyberg as a performer is at home in the performance space though and that was indeed a pleasure to behold.