The End, 2009

Still: Courtesy the artist | Luhring Augustine, New York | Galleri i8, Reykjavik

Five-channel video installation, color, sound
30 min 30 sec (videos)
Overall dimensions variable

Ragnar Kjartansson's performative works combine durational live performance, music, and uncompromised romanticism. In The End, Kjartansson ventures out into the wilderness of the Canadian Rockies with his collaborator Davíð Þór Jónsson, resulting in a five-channel video installation synched together as a single disfigured country music arrangement.
While composing the soundtrack for The End Kjartansson and Davíð Þór Jónsson regularly journeyed through the nearby woods to their studio, and drank bourbon while immersing themselves in war poetry and the music of The Byrds, Townes Van Zant, and The Band among others. Kjartansson and Davíð Þór Jónsson then filmed and recorded the song's instrumental parts in five idyllic and sublime sites around Banff, where, dressed in heavy winter clothing, the two artists struggle to survive temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius. The resulting projections were arranged to echo one another, Kjartansson and Davíð Þór Jónsson performing multiple parts of the same song in the guise of somewhat ambiguous country musicians. The scenes begin with the artists entering the still frames, tuning their instruments and carefully setting in motion an effortless refrain in the chord of G.

Using the Rocky Mountains as a stage set to perform the historically romanticized role of the artist in the landscape, Kjartansson questions the cultural narratives that mediate our experiences of nature. All the while the work's melancholic beauty and intoxicating soundtrack prove overwhelmingly romantic, eliciting a curiosity in the contemporary abyss. – Tatiana Mellema


Solo Exhibition: Ragnar Kjartansson: Emotional Landscapes
Venue: Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
Curators: Soledad Gutiérrez
Exhibition 22 February 2022 - 26 June 2022

*1976 in Reykjavík, Iceland | Living and working in Reykjavík, Iceland