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"Ragnar Kjartansson" (1976-) Icelandic Performance Artist's Exhibit at The Hirshhorn, the First U.S. Survey of His Work - Oct 14, 2016 - Jan 8, 2017


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Ragnar Kjartansson, (B. 1976, wiki page) is an Icelandic performance artist known for his endurance pieces.  To wit, the show will feature "Woman in E" a single sequin-clad woman strumming an E minor guitar chord.  A rotating group of 14 Washington, DC based musicians will perform as the woman during the length of the exhibit.  In another piece featured at this show, The End - Venezia, 2009, Ragnar painted fellow Icelandic artist Pall Hauker Bjornsson each day for 144 straight days during the 2009 Venice Biennale.  

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On 10/17/2016 at 0:04 PM, Tweaked said:

To wit, the show will feature "Woman in E" a single sequin-clad woman strumming an E minor guitar chord. 

Little does he know I have absolute pitch, and will be judging whether or not it's a true E-minor chord.


When are people going to realize that our entire Presidential election was nothing more than one, giant, Andy Kaufman-esque, piece of fuck-you performance art. <--- That was *not* a political statement; it was an attempt at humor.


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I found "Ragnar Kjartansson" to be an intriguing show, primarily because the pieces that flop, flop spectacularly and the pieces that are hits, hit spectacularly.  Some of the pieces are so conceptual that the idea is better than the finished product, others are very site specific and viewing video of the piece just doesn't work, while the pieces that are most successful manage to combine live performance and/or video in a way that can be appreciate in a gallery setting.      

The Blossoming Trees Performance, for me was a flop.  The wall text described how Ragnar assumed the role of a plein-air painter for a weekend, living and painting as they did in the Hudson Valley.  Conceptually an interesting idea, in practice the piece ended up being a handful of crappy paintings on the wall.  The experience of being a Hudson Valley plein-air painter did not translate. 

Another piece that could have been interesting was the SS Hangover, from the Venice Biennale 2013.  A boat filled with musicians playing classical music sails back and forth along a Venice canal.  Periodically the boat docks and a musician steps off the boat to be picked up later.  The musician on the dock plays along with the boat musicians as they sailed away.  Clearly a very site specific piece of performance art, however, a 3 hour video of the boat slowly punting around a Venice canal was not particularly interesting.  

The best piece by far is The Visitors .  The Hirshhorn set up nine large screens in a massive dark gallery space projecting video of nine musicians in separate rooms all playing the same song at the dilapidated Rokeby Farms in the Hudson Valley.  The video is 64 minutes long and shot in one take.  As the song builds and recedes, the musicians are alone but playing together, at times each musician has nothing to do before re-joining the song.  There is plenty of video of the The Visitors online, but none really capture the sense of melancholy, loneliness, and eventual joy of the project as being immersed in it in the gallery space.  It's really worth going just to see this one hauntingly beautiful piece.     

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