Ragnar Kjartansson |Austin, Texas
The contemporary Austin, 3809 W. 35th St Austin, Texas, U.S.A.
Performances on select weekend dates: April 7, 8, 14, 15, and 28, and May 5 and 6, from 11 a.m. –3 p.m. A sunset performance on Sunday, April 22, from 4–8 p.m.
Artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s kinetic sound sculpture S.S. Hangover, 2013, consists of a hand-painted boat sailing on the lagoon, occupied by a formal party of six brass musicians performing ethereal music by Kjartan Sveinsson. As if caught in a daydream, the S.S. Hangover sails in circles, transporting its occupants to nowhere. The black-tie-clad performers repeatedly play a lyrical score for hours that challenges their endurance while flirting with the potential for failure as time passes. Inspired by a set prop from the 1935 American film Remember Last Night?, a drunken comedy murder-mystery, Kjartansson (Icelandic, born 1976 in Reykjavik) restored a vintage Icelandic wooden fishing boat to its likeness. The artist previously enacted a version of this playfully romantic performance at the 55th Venice Biennale, where musicians seemed to have left a party in a beautiful hybrid Scandinavian-Venetian-Grecian boat, replete with a sail featuring a mythical and overly plump Pegasus.
The artist’s multidisciplinary practice is in itself a hybrid. Having first trained as a painter, Kjartansson now works primarily in film, video, and performance, and is as likely to bring musicians, actors, and theater sets into galleries as to perform himself for the camera. S.S. Hangover, like much of his theatrical live and video works, charts a trajectory back to the artist’s youth backstage watching his parents’ repetitive rehearsals and plays in Reykjavik theaters, where his father was a director and his mother an actor.
The durational aspect of the languidly circling boat, with its looping score by his long-time collaborator, composer Kjartan Sveinsson, is an expression of Kjartansson’s desire for what he wittily refers to as “divine boredom.” Contemporary art that addresses duration and endurance harks back to the 1970s, when artists including Marina Abramović, Vito Acconci, Chris Burden, and Carolee Schneemann enacted projects that challenged the artist, performers, and sometimes spectators both mentally and physically. As not only a dedicated music fan but a musical showman, Kjartansson has collaborated with a broad range of musicians, including the National, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, Pinetop Perkins, Kristín Anna, and Orchestre Métropolitain. The delightful and absurd performative sculpture S.S. Hangover plays with notions of irony and sincerity, artifice and authenticity, and fantasy and reality, putting forth the idea of existential humor as a commentary on the human condition.
Featuring Density512 musicians:
Flugelhorn: Chelsea Orr, Chris Luebke-Brown, Casey Martin, Rachel Spencer
French Horn: Ben Carroll, Ryan Licalsi, Zach Morgan, Jacob Schnitzer, Stone Wang
Trombone: Luke Berringer, Tim Maines, Tyler Smolovik
Tuba: Alex Avila, Aaron Morgan
Organized by Andrea Mellard, Director of Public Programs and Community Engagement, with text also by Mellard.
Special thanks to Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik.
Ragnar Kjartansson Exhibition Support: Edward and Betty Marcus Foundation, Revelator, Vision Fund Leaders and Contributors