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Interview: Elín Hansdóttir

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November 28, 2013

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors in Kling & Bang galleri

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Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors opens in Kling & Bang Gallery

December 1 – February 9, Opening: November 30, 2013, 5 pm

 

Kling & Bang gallery, Reykjavík in collaboration with Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna announces an exhibition of The Visitors by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, which premiered in 2012 at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zurich and is part of TBA21’s collection of contemporary art. The nine-channel video installation will now be shown in the artist run Kling & Bang gallery in Reykjavík, where Ragnar Kjartansson had his debut solo exhibition in 2003.

Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors is a hymn to the feminine and its melancholic triumph, an incantation of friendship to the melody of romantic despair. The bohemian gathering of a group of friends and musicians in the grandiose and decaying twilight zone of Rokeby farm in Upstate New York becomes the scenery for what the artist calls a “feminine nihilistic gospel song”: a layered portrait of the artist’s friends and an exploration of musical cinema taking its title from ABBA’s last album which was marked by divorce and defeat. The Visitors will now be shown in Reykjavík, where the work is so deeply rooted. With the musicians coming from the Reykjavík music scene and the song set to lyrics assembled from poems by artist Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir, the piece becomes somewhat of a portrait of a certain generation of Reykjavík’s creative scene as well as individual portraits of the musicians. This cinematographic tableau in nine parts visualizes the performance of the profoundly melancholic tune in a long, uninterrupted, and repetitive 53-minute take with the main line repeated over and over again: Once again I fall into my feminine ways, followed by the more nihilistic verse: There are stars exploding around you, and there’s nothing you can do.

Set at the Rokeby Farm in Upstate New York, a historic house owned by the Aldrich family since 1688, which is remarkable for its nearly untouched state and elegant disrepair, The Visitors captures the long-drawn-out moment when a group of seemingly exotic invitees has taken over the noble mansion for a musical performance. The invitees have stepped out of their world and into that of Rokeby, where American history can be read from the household objects; flutes, canons, swords, books and paintings sprawled around the house, left there by individuals that have passed through the mansion over several centuries of the making of American society, tell stories of the Civil war, the Boxer uprising, World War I, the construction of Manhattan, the founding of the New York Public Library among others.

As the New York Times reported on July 21, 2010, Rokeby’s 43 rooms are home to “a colorful cast of Livingston and Astor descendants—who are struggling, sometimes with each other, to keep the house from falling down while tending to their own deeply individual destinies.”

From an infatuation of its atmosphere of romantic decay and the inhabitants’ attitude to Rokeby, a yearning to document this space and a desire to make a multi screen installation of longing, The Visitors came into being. It not only documents the space and alludes to its rich history, it documents a state of being at a given moment; the state of the place and the state this group of friends are in. The nine visitors take up various spaces indoors and out—the sitting room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the veranda—each one inhabiting a separate and very distinct setting, playing various instruments and singing, as if to themselves, the piece’s chorus. It is only in the synchronization of the nine channels that the voices and instruments merge into a harmonic orchestration.

 

About Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary

Founded in 2002 by Francesca von Habsburg in Vienna, Austria, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) represents the fourth generation of the Thyssen family’s commitment to the arts. The foundation is dedicated primarily to the commissioning and dissemination of ambitious, experimental, and unconventional projects that defy traditional categorizations. This approach has gained the collection a pioneering reputation throughout the world. The foundation’s projects promote artistic practices that are architectural, context- and site-specific, performative, and often informed by an interest in social aesthetics and environmental concerns. Many of the projects reflect the shift away from disciplinary to transdisciplinary practices embracing architecture, sound, music, and science. In addition, TBA21 shares its collection and commissions with numerous museums and public institutions. Most commissions, initiated and produced by the foundation, form an integral part of major contemporary art exhibitions, such as the Venice Biennale, the Istanbul Biennial, and documenta, where new works are very much on the agenda.

Since May 2012, Vienna’s Augarten park has been transformed into a revitalized center for the arts under the aegis of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary. TBA21–Augarten marks the inception of a four-year collaborative relationship with the Belvedere and presents artists’ individual stances and artistic dialogues through works drawn from the foundation’s collection.

 

About Kling & Bang

Founded in 2003 by ten artists in Reykjavík, Iceland, Kling & Bang has been running an exhibition space in their hometown for ten years. There they aim to provide a platform both for local artists to exhibit at important points on their creative path and to introduce international art to Reykjavík’s scene. As well as running the gallery space Kling & Bang has taken on various projects abroad as artists in their own right, participating in exhibitions and projects at Tate Modern, Malmö Konsthall, Frieze Projects and more.  For two years 2004-2005 Kling & Bang also operated the artist base, KlinK & BanK, in a 5000 m2old industrial building in Reykjavík, that served as a hub for the local scene where 150 artists, musicians, film makers and designers had studios and produced a vibrant program of concerts, events and exhibitions. KlinK and BanK also hosted and collaborated with international artists, such as John Bock, Christoph Schlingensief, Paul McCarthy and Jason Rhodes, on projects and exhibitions that culminated either at site or in Kling & Bang gallery space.

Running in its eleventh year Kling & Bang is still totally artist run, by half of the founding members and a few that joined in 2010.

 

Kling & Bang gallery

Hverfisgata 42, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

Opening hours, Thu-Sun: 2-6 pm and by appointment

Free admission

 

In Cooperation With:

Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary

Köstlergasse 1, 1060 Vienna

T +43 1 513 98 560

office@tba21.org, www.tba21.org

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