press release

Incorporating elements of theater, music, and visual art, Ragnar Kjartansson creates performances that test the boundaries between reality and fiction, melancholy and parody. Often made with groups of other people, including artists, musicians, family, and friends, his work explores the nature of relationships and collaboration.

In The Visitors (2012), eight performers, including Kjartansson himself, stage a musical production in Rokeby, a storied, rambling mansion built in New York State’s bucolic Hudson River Valley in 1815. Wearing headphones that allow them to hear one another, they carry out a continuous, 64-minute long ensemble performance while stationed in separate rooms. The music was arranged by Davíð Þór Jónsson, and the repeated lyrics are drawn from a text by Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir, Kjartansson’s ex-wife. The title of the work comes from Swedish pop group ABBA’s 1981 album of the same name, which was written at a time of family strife and the breakdown of relations between the group’s members. Presented as an immersive nine-channel video and audio installation, The Visitors is a captivating work that demonstrates Kjartansson’s unique ability to weave music, atmosphere, and human drama together in a dream-like experience.

Ragnar Kjartansson (1976, Reykjavik, Iceland), lives and works in Reykjavik. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at the New Museum, New York; Migros Museum fur Gegenwartskunst, Zurich; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, among others. In 2011, he was awarded Performa’s Malcolm McLaren Award, and in 2009 he represented Iceland at the Venice Biennale.