Ragnar Kjartansson

The Visitors, 2012

  • A woman in headphones sits alone playing an accordion in an ornately decorated but slightly ramshackle drawing room
    Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012 (still); nine-channel HD video projection with sound, 64 min., dimensions variable; jointly owned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired through the generosity of Mimi Haas and Helen and Charles Schwab; © Ragnar Kjartansson; photo: Elísabet Davids, courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik
  • A naked Caucasian man plays the guitar in a bathtub, Kjartansson
    Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012 (still); nine-channel HD video projection with sound, 64 min., dimensions variable; jointly owned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired through the generosity of Mimi Haas and Helen and Charles Schwab; © Ragnar Kjartansson; photo: Elísabet Davids, courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik
  • A bearded Caucasian man wearing a blue vest plays a drum set in a domestic living room, Kjartansson
    Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012 (still); nine-channel HD video projection with sound, 64 min., dimensions variable; jointly owned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired through the generosity of Mimi Haas and Helen and Charles Schwab; © Ragnar Kjartansson; photo: Elísabet Davids, courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik
  • A darkened room with screens depicting people playing instruments in an old mansion, Kjartansson, Soundtracks

    Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012 (detail); nine-channel HD video projection with sound, 64 min., dimensions variable; jointly owned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired through the generosity of Mimi Haas and Helen and Charles Schwab; installation view, SFMOMA, 2017; © Ragnar Kjartansson; photo: Katherine Du Tiel

  • A darkened room with screens depicting people playing instruments in an old mansion, Kjartansson, Soundtracks

    Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012 (detail); nine-channel HD video projection with sound, 64 min., dimensions variable; jointly owned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired through the generosity of Mimi Haas and Helen and Charles Schwab; installation view, SFMOMA, 2017; © Ragnar Kjartansson; photo: Katherine Du Tiel

  • An interpretive drawing of a musical score, Kjartansson

    Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, score, 2012; pencil, pen, and watercolor on paper, 16 5/16 x 22 13/16 in. (41.5 x 58 cm); private collection, courtesy Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík; © Ragnar Kjartansson; photo: courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik

What a beautiful place to seek shelter, gather strength, and enjoy the company of friends.

A two-hundred-year-old landmark in upstate New York—a romantic setting of bohemian décor and seductive atmospheres—plays host to The Visitors, a title inspired by ABBA’s final album before their breakup. Ragnar Kjartansson’s band is an eclectic group. Eight musicians begin to play, each in a separate room (with the artist himself naked in the bathtub), recording their separate tracks in sync in a single continuous session as others play and sing on the porch. Mansion turns living museum; film set becomes multitrack recording studio.

Music can arouse desires and emotions but it can also offer a retreat and safe haven in moments of despair. Once again I fall into / My feminine ways—the song’s lyrics, from a poem by Kjartansson’s ex-wife, Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir, revel in melancholy. With each refrain, emotions go deeper, building dense layers of past feeling, and a collective lament. On the nine projection screens in this immersive video installation, threads of intimate views are woven into the lingering melody.

Incessantly repeating the same song signals a moment of emotional catharsis. The hour-long psychedelic loop slowly drifts toward a last movement, a gathering of friends and a communal walk out into the mansion’s open pastures, leaving this viewer with a sense of longing unfulfilled.

— Rudolf Frieling


Originally published in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 360⁰: Views on the Collection, edited by Judy Bloch and Suzanne Stein (San Francisco: SFMOMA, 2016).


360° View

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012; installed at SFMOMA as part of Soundtracks, 2017; © Ragnar Kjartansson; video: courtesy Adobe.

This 360⁰ audio/video presentation is best experienced using a mobile device and headphones.


Scenes From the Production of Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors

  • An elaborate room with floral wallpaper and carpets filled with instruments, Kjartansson

    Scene from the production of The Visitors, 2012; photo: Elísabet Davids

  • Two Caucasian women and a bearded man sit around a bathtub; the man holds a guitar, Kjartansson

    Scene from the production of The Visitors, 2012; photo: Elísabet Davids

  • Several people stand around a piano in an elaborately decorated room, Kjartansson

    Scene from the production of The Visitors, 2012; photo: Elísabet Davids

  • A naked Caucasian man holding a guitar chases another clothed man through a green field, Kjartansson

    Scene from the production of The Visitors, 2012; photo: Elísabet Davids

  • Several people stand in an open green field at dusk, Kjartansson

    Scene from the production of The Visitors, 2012; photo: Elísabet Davids