Ragnar Kjartansson (Icelandic, b. 1976)
The Visitors, 2012.
Nine channel HD video projection, Duration: 64 minutes.
Photo: Elísabet Davidsdóttir, Sound: Chris McDonald, Video: Tómas Örn Tómasson. Image courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik.
Gift of Graham and Ann Gund to Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and Gund Gallery at Kenyon College, 2015.1.1.
The Visitors, 2012 is a large installation consisting of nine video projections on a scale of 1:1. It brings into play the relationships between live concerts, the tradition of performance, poetry, and immersive cinema, based on the repetition and circular nature of actions and settings.
Ragnar Kjartansson’s performance practice has embraced the entire spectrum of art ever since he began. Through theatre, music, and sculpture, as well as visual art, Kjartansson creates performances and actions that take from a number of disciplines. In them he explores and tests the borderline between reality and fiction, always poised between melancholy and parody.
The Visitors consists of nine videos on a scale of 1:1, in which the audience sees different musicians, all friends of Kjartansson’s (including Kristín Anna and Gyða Valtýsdóttir, founding sisters of the historic Icelandic band Múm, and Kjartan Sveinsson, keyboard player until 2012 with the famous Sigur Rós). For over an hour, the musicians, each with a different instrument, sing and play the same melody of a song called Feminine Ways.
The nine scenes are set in the many rooms of the large, dilapidated nineteenth-century Rokeby Farm in Upstate New York. The nine audio and video tracks were made separately but are shown together on large screens. The display has been specially designed by the artist and curators to emphasize the visual and audio elements of the work. The audience is thus placed at the center of a continuous, choral piece.
With its title and concept inspired by the last album of the Swedish group ABBA, The Visitors offers a reflection on the theme of the power and persistence of affective ties and of the melancholy and romanticism that are typical of the artist’s Nordic culture. Music is a fundamental element in all the artist’s work and, as Kjartansson himself says, it is used as “an almost sculptural element”.
-From Pirelli HangarBicocca