New York Inspired V: Ragnar Kjartansson’s “The Visitors”

Ragnar Kjartansson’s new show The Visitors opened at the Luhring Augustine Gallery in Chelsea last night. Hundreds of visitors – including Bjork, Antony, dozens of project participants, not to mention the artist himself – filled a space not made for such a crowd. And so it was hard to digest the work, a 53-film displayed on nine different screens, all of them surrounded. New York Inspired V Ragnar Kjartansson's The VisitorsThe title of the piece is derived from the 1981 album The Visitors by Abba, their final work together. New York Inspired V: Ragnar Kjartansson's "The Visitors"The film opens with isolated people in different rooms – kitchen, living room, bathroom – connected to each other only by headphones, humming, strumming and singing lyrics from a poem by Ragnar’s former wife,  Asdis Sif Gunnarsdottir: Once again I fall into my feminine ways. New York Inspired V: Ragnar Kjartansson's "The Visitors"The music is entrancing, the tone meditative, the desire to sing along hard to resist; it is at times ecstatic – Ragnar, in the bathtub, raising his guitar above his head, a wheel-less canon fired into the evening – and always inviting. Everyone eventually exits their disparate spaces to join together at the front porch of the house (Rokeby Farm), still singing, to walk down into the fields together.New York Inspired V: Ragnar Kjartansson's "The Visitors"I was tired when I arrived at the gallery, feeling the flu coming on, and the crowds didn’t help. I wanted to leave, come another time, but stayed and was, once again, enveloped by Kjartansson’s work. It was not only the music, but the hypnotic quiet, in spite of everything, my tired knees, the inability to see much of anything, missing screens, unable to move, the anxious pushing around me, the chic personages. Indeed, I was privileged in the end to meet and thank Kjartansson for his work and expect to return – a few times, I imagine – to see what it’s all really about. It’s Bliss all over again! New York Inspired V: Ragnar Kjartansson's "The Visitors"