Death is Elsewhere – Ragnar Kjartansson’s Installation Opens at AGO

Ragnar Kjartansson (b. 1976, Reykjavík, Iceland), Death Is Elsewhere, 2019, Seven-channel video with sound, 77 minutes. Art Gallery of Ontario. Purchased in honour of Kitty Scott for her contributions to the AGO by Shabin and Nadir Mohamed. Supported by the AGO.

Where: Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St West, Toronto
When: Opens November 7, 2020
Cost: Visit for ticket prices

Details: Ragnar Kjartansson is an internationally known performance and video artist living and working in Reykjavík. Panoramic in scope, the installation is comprised of a circle of seven screens. Filmed under the midnight sun in the shadow of the Laki volcano in South Iceland, the artwork surrounds visitors in a lush landscape of green grass and grey blue skies, punctuated at times by lava fields. Across this landscape, in opposition to each other, two couples move slowly, each comprised of one member of a set of twins. The couples encircle the viewer, singing in unison repeatedly, a sad song of beauty and loss.

The installation is the latest in a series of works by Kjartansson in which a single song is performed or a phrase is uttered, without beginning or end, in a nearly continuous loop. Triggering in viewers a subtle discomfort, Kjartansson’s work combines elements of the tragic, comic and absurd, compounding their impact over time. His choice of locations, beautiful and sparse, only amplifies the emotional impact of the musical accompaniment.

The video features two sets of twins, both frequent collaborators with the artist: Kristín Anna and Gyða Valtýsdóttir, both founding members of the seminal, atmospheric Icelandic band múm, and Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the renowned American alt-rock band The National.

Death is Elsewhere was recently acquired by the AGO, with generous support from Shabin and Nadir Mohamed.

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