The Icelandic artist has set up shop at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, in his first ever museum exhibition, and he's doing it with gusto. Or as much gusto as a Nordic artist can muster.

There is a quiet, laissez-faire stance about Icelanders, and a certain existential melancholy, all of which can be found in Kjartansson's presentation.

It consists of three monumental video installations, offering a theatrical experience of a particular visual aesthetic, richly accompanied by a musical score that, in one particular case, will test the viewer's endurance.

The Explosive Sonics of Divinity, is a 50-minute musical and dramatic performance, but one devoid of actors. Instead, giant shifting canvases, vistas of the Northern land, painted by the artist and his friends, stand in for the emotional narrative.
Kjartansson was born into an artistic family of actors and directors, has worked as a stage technician, and thus was bitten by the theatrical bug early on. It now finds its expression in video presentations that like so many works of this genre verge on the narcissistic and are completely self-referencing, but then, what do we expect in the age of selfies?
This is, nevertheless, a thoroughly enjoyable show, one geared at a young public that will instantly identify with the actual 'actors' of Kjartansson's creative arena - the artist himself, and his gang of talented and equally self-absorbed friends.

The main piece, titled The Visitors, dates back to 2012 and consists of a nine-channel video installation filmed in a 19-th century mansion in upstate New York. It is really a musical performance revolving around a poem, recorded in a single take, lasting 64-minutes, or the length of the song.

A Lot of Sorrow is another musical performance-cum-exhibition piece, this one going on for a full six hours.

Finally, World Light – The Life and Death of an Artist, created last year, brings the plot, so to speak, back to the central figure of the artist, imbuing the video with references to Icelandic literature, as much as a movie set.

Uff.

RAGNAR KJARTANSSON
The Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art
185 St. Catherine W
Montreal, QC
http://www.macm.org/en/expositions/ragnar-kjartansson/(lien externe)
February 11 to May 22, 2016

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