Ragnar Kjartansson: 'Scenes From Western Culture', 2015. Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York & i8 Gallery, Reykjavik. Installation shot, Copenhagen Contemporary 2016. Photo: Anders Sune Berg
As part of its inaugural programme at Papirøen Copenhagen Contemporary showed two large video installations by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. He has become known all over the world for his music-based performances and his large-scale video installations, which take a humorous and poetic-philosophical look at our both banal and subtle everyday life.
Ragnar Kjartansson’s work finds expression in many different media, with references to literature, film, theatre and music. Often he appears in his own works, at other times with his close friends and family. He makes use of personal anecdotes and memories, which means it is easy for us to identify with the tragicomic and human drama in which he involves us.
Ragnar Kjartansson has himself played music for many years and often emphasizes the importance of having grown up in a theatrical family, and his works often function as stagings and compositions full of emotion and humour, with no real narrative. Instead he works conceptually with long-lasting repetitions that can unfold over several hours, days and weeks.
The exhibition presented two of his large video installations: the performance-based A Lot of Sorrow (2013), which is a filmic adaptation of the six-hour performance he created in collaboration with the band The National for MoMA PS1 in New York in 2013, as well as the nine-screen video installation Scenes from Western Culture (2015) in which Ragnar Kjartansson has staged a series of everyday situations that function as filmic paintings or living tableaux of our Western life.
With his own personal interpretation of Nordic melancholy from artists and popular culture such as Edvard Munch, Halldór Laxness and ABBA, Ragnar Kjartansson’s works offer an experience of art that reaches out to the viewer. The works demand no more than a willingness to spend time sitting and experiencing them.
About Ragnar Kjartansson
Ragnar Kjartansson (b. 1976) lives and works in Reykjavík. He graduated from the Iceland Academy of Art and the Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm and represented Iceland at the Venice Biennale in 2009, in which he participated again in 2013. He has won great international recognition and has had solo exhibitions at a number of museums in Europe and the USA, including IA Boston; Guggenheim Bilbao, Bilbao; New Museum, New York; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; the Musée d’art contemporain de Montrêal, Canada; and the Barbican Art Gallery, London.