It may already have toured Europe and America, but Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s epic nine-screen video installation ‘The Visitors’ (2012) hasn’t lost any of its sentiment, charisma or potency for its UK premiere. Actually it’s the best presentation I’ve seen at Vinyl Factory’s space which, ingeniously, uses the top floor of Brewer Street car park for installation artworks.
Known for performance-based, work for which he often collaborates with family and friends, Kjartansson has created a mesmerising experience. It’s set at the two-hundred-year-old Rokeby Villa in upstate New York (once home to the American socialite Astor family), where eight musicians perform a heart-wrenching song with spellbinding passion. Shot in one take, each performer, including members of bands Sigur Ros and Múm, inhabits a different room in the run-down house: one screen features Kjartansson strumming his guitar and belting out lyrics while naked in a bath. The ninth scenario focuses on the veranda where the villa’s residents occasionally join in aided by the hum of Hudson River crickets and unexpected cannon fire. The piece culminates with everyone making their way out on to the grand lawn and into the misty sun-setting distance, the sound of their chanting beautifully dissolving as they become specks on the screen.
Using his ex-wife Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir’s short, profoundly nihilistic poem about love and loss, ‘Feminine Ways’, as the inspiration for the verse , Kjartansson composed the score with fellow Icelandic performing artist Davíð Þór Jónsson – who swigs whisky and smokes a cigar while playing a grand piano in an opulently decorated room.
Fluctuating between the slow and melancholic to the rapturous and celebratory, ‘The Visitors’ distils the affecting and empowering essence of music. Each lone performer’s individual endeavour creates a unified and euphoric collective experience. While there are moments of sorrow, it’s extraordinarily uplifting. It lasts a little over an hour but you’ll want to spend all day with it.
Average User Rating
5 / 5
- 5 star:2
- 4 star:0
- 3 star:0
- 2 star:0
- 1 star:0
This was a truly incredible and charming experience, so much so that we ended up seeing twice in the same day. Move around and listen close to each screen, you pick up lots of different details. Clever and beautifully done. Please go and see it. It's free so no excuse. Only advice is make sure you start from the begining rather than walk in half way through.
I haven't seen it at the Vinyl Factory yet, however I'd just like to point out that unless Wales is now counted as part of Europe rather than a constituent part of the dis-UK (something i would really like to happen given the disregard for our existence by the majority of UK media), this is not the works's UK premier. This work won the Derek Williams Trust Purchase Award at last year's Artes Mundi exhibition in Cardiff, which awards the UK's largest art prize...and one i think he really should have been awarded for this...http://www.artesmundi.org/en/news/ragnar-kjartansson-wins-the-derek-williams-trust-pruchase-award