Ragnar Kjartansson | Art Basel Unlimited
World Light – the Life and Death of an Artist
Hall 1, U51, 15-18 June 2017
Preview dates: 12-14 June 2017
World Light – The Life and Death of an Artist (2015) is a four-channel video based on Icelandic author Halldór Laxness’s four-volume novel World Light (1937-40). World Light portrays the tale of an orphan who yearns to become a masterful poet and his search for greatness, a quest which is riddled with difficulties, mediocrity, and tragedy. Kjartansson produced and filmed his take on the epic novel with his friends and family over one month at Vienna’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) in 2014. As a performance that was open to the public, the artist and his comrades built sets, made costumes, wrote music, rehearsed, and filmed scenes on site. The documentation and culmination of the performance realized in Kjartansson’s video materializes the essence of the novel it depicts, poignantly showcasing a romantic, idealistic undertaking and revealing its human imperfections. With its broken narrative of longing, death, and art, Kjartansson describes the video as a “cubist painting of a novel.”
Ragnar Kjartansson (b. 1976) has built his career upon bold and spirited experiments across media. Working simultaneously as an artist and a musician, Ragnar considers himself primarily a performance artist influenced by theater. His electronic group, Trabant, plays on the boundaries of rock and roll and performance art; Ragnar also creates videos, paintings and installations that are often linked with his performances. His pieces are characterized by the interplay between contradicting feelings—sorrow and happiness, horror and beauty, drama and humor—and frequently rely on repetition or “the loop.” Ragnar, who studied at the Iceland Academy of the Arts, is the youngest artist to represent Iceland in the Venice Biennale (2009).