Stars Exploding, 2013

Words by Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir, score by Kjartan Sveinsson,
Davíð Þór Jónsson 

Commissioned by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary

Repetition, circularity and the experimentation with musical canons are the artistic signature of Ragnar Kjartansson. The elegiac and mysterious quality of the human voice in the process of tiring, exhaustion and erosion, in a state of solipsism or polyphony, consonance or cacophony, modulate his durational performance pieces to the dialogue between the performer's inner voice and his capacity for declamation to an audience.

There are stars exploding around you and there is nothing you can do... 

The hypnotic magnetism of the video installation The Visitors exploits the Delphic and personal lyrics of Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir’s poem Feminine Ways, tuned to a nihilistic gospel song performed by some of Iceland’s greatest musicians. Stars Exploding is a newly commissioned performative “sister” work of The Visitors and musically takes its departure from the repetitive mantra of just one line of the poem. There are stars exploding around you and there is nothing you can do... is intonated by the 25 young professional singers from the Vienna Boys’ Choir in a 20-minute loop, the performance equally delving into the process of difference and repetition, polyphony, the music’s swelling and receding, the voices’ erosion, and finally exhaustion. The line is first sung by a solo treble voice, then overlapped by a second and third. The song culminates in a full choir only to start again from the beginning. It was premiered at TBA21-Augarten by the Haydn Choir of the Wiener Sängerknaben, in a one time only performance for the exhibition opening. The young singers transform the soulful incantation of The Visitors into a blissful choral, resonating with innocence and vulnerability. Their „heavenly“ voices anticipate the romantic melancholy conjured by The Visitors, the choir acts as a youthful incarnation of Kjartansson’s friends’ bohemian persona singing of love lost, gender troubles and a nihilistic hope in hopelessness.

The Wiener Sängerknaben, a legendary Viennese institution whose foundation was laid at the court of Maximilan I. in 1498, are the institutional neighbors of TBA21 at the Augarten. They are known worldwide for their recordings of Christmas carols and the traditional sailor uniforms they sport.
March 7, 2013
Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, 
TBA21–Augarten, Scherzergasse 1A, 1020 Vienna, Austria
Supported by
Wiener Städtische Versicherungsverein