The Visitors, 2012

Still: Courtesy the artist | Luhring Augustine, New York | i8 Gallery, Reykjavík

Nine-channel video installation, color, sound
64 min (videos)
Overall dimension variable

Ragnar Kjartansson's The Visitors (2012) is a nine-channel video installation, capturing the long-drawn-out moment when a group of seemingly exotic invitees has taken over a noble but decaying mansion in Upstate New York for a musical performance. Set at the Rokeby Farm in Barrytown on the Hudson River, a historic house owned by the Aldrich family since 1688 and remarkable for its nearly untouched state and elegant disrepair, The Visitors is a hymn to romantic love (and its dissolution); a sensual commemoration of the artist's favorite band of the 1970s, ABBA; a nonconformist gathering of a group of friends and eclectic musicians; and an exploration of the durational performance for which the Icelandic artist has become known in the world of art and performance. Themed to lyrics from a poem written by his ex-partner Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir, titled "Feminine Ways," the cinematographic tableau in nine parts visualizes the performance of the profoundly melancholic tune in a long, uninterrupted, and repetitive 64-minute take.

Attracted by both the house's atmosphere of romantic decay and its eccentric inhabitants, Kjartansson and his musical cast decided to stage there what the artist describes as a "feminine nihilistic gospel song", his very own genre of musical contradictions. The nine visitors take up various spaces indoors and out the sitting room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the veranda, each one inhabiting a separate yet very distinct setting, playing various instruments and singing as if to themselves the piece's main tune. It is only in the synchronization of the nine channels that the voices and instruments merge into a harmonic orchestration.

Nothing disturbs the aura of the performers not even the Fender amps that modulate the sounds, the microphones and recording devices intruding into the camera frame, or the whiskey bottles hidden in the snow. Instead, the clutter, the debris, the seeming mishaps, and the misplaced objects mesmerize the viewer and bind the gaze. They authenticate the ephemeral moment and thus create a diaphanous transition between performance, music, and film, the interrelated fields of Kjartansson's ambitious artistic practice.

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


Solo exhibition: Ragnar Kjartansson. The Visitors
Venue: Akureyri Art Museum, Iceland
Curator/Director: Hlynur Hallsson
February 4, 2023 - August 13, 2023


Solo Exhibition: Ragnar Kjartansson: Emotional Landscapes
Venue: Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
Curators: Soledad Gutiérrez
February 22, 2022 - June 4, 2022