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The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston opens Ragnar Kjartansson's The Visitors
Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012, Nine-channel HD video projection, 64 minutes, Edition 4 of 6, Gift of Graham Gund to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston and the Gund Gallery, Kenyon College. Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik.

BOSTON, MASS.- The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston presents the opening of The Visitors by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. This is Kjartansson’s second solo exhibition at the ICA. This show marks the Boston debut of Kjartansson’s recent project, The Visitors, a nine-channel video installation based on a musical performance staged in upstate New York at Rokeby Farm. For this new work, the artist assembled a group of close friends, some of the most renowned musicians from Iceland. A depiction of individual creativity and extreme collective emotion, The Visitors continues Kjartansson’s interest in durational performance as a means to explore the persona of the performer. The exhibition is on view at the ICA from July 23 through Nov. 2, 2014. This immersive installation recently entered the ICA’s permanent collection thanks to the generosity of Ann and Graham Gund.

Kjartansson first came to know Rokeby Farm while visiting the Hudson Valley area in 2007 and became a frequent visitor. A site remarkable for its long and eclectic history and its state of romantic disrepair, Rokeby Farm serves as a backdrop to the film’s eloquent homage to love, loss, and friendship. The home has stood for almost two hundred years and is run by descendants of the aristocratic Livingston and Astor families who have become the artist´s friends and also perform in The Visitors. They have successfully preserved the traces of the past and welcome bohemia and spirituality in all its forms.

The title of the piece is derived from the 1981 album The Visitors by Swedish pop band ABBA; the album was to be the group’s final record as divorce and internal strain ended their collaboration. With lyrics from a poem by artist Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir, Ragnar´s former wife, and musical arrangement by the artist and Davíð Þór Jónsson, Kjartansson has staged a single-take production in which his fellow musicians perform the piece for a total of 64 minutes. Each of the nine projections in The Visitors features a participant inhabiting a separate setting in the home or on the grounds of Rokeby Farm, and when viewed together the individual scenes create a layered portrait which the artist aptly describes as a “feminine nihilistic gospel song.”

Ragnar Kjartansson was born in 1976 and lives and works in Reykjavik, Iceland. Other solo exhibitions of his work have been held at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, New York’s New Museum, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin, Frankfurter Kunstverein, and the BAWAG Contemporary in Vienna. Song, his first American solo museum show, was organized by the Carnegie Museum of Art in 2011, and traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami and Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Kjartansson was the recipient of Performa’s 2011 Malcolm McLaren Award for his performance of Bliss, a twelve-hour live loop of the final aria of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, and in 2009 he was the youngest artist to represent Iceland at the Venice Biennale’s International Art Exhibition.

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