Ragnar Kjartansson

The Visitors, 2012


Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012; 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 of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors (still), 2012; 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

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors (still), 2012; 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

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

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

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

Scenes From the Production of Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors


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

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

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

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

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


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