Opening Day Lecture: “Presenting Ragnar Kjartansson”

Presented by Mark Scala, chief curator, Frist Art Museum

Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s hypnotic and playful video installation The Visitors has been called “a generational masterpiece” by The Boston Globe. Presented on nine large screens, The Visitors includes film of musicians situated throughout an aging mansion, providing an intimate environment that seems to ache with forlorn memory. Together, the musicians repeat a sweetly melancholic composition, which gradually swells to an emotionally stirring finale that culminates in the musicians leaving their isolated rooms and joining together in a harmonious group.

Chief curator Mark Scala discusses Kjartansson’s work in the context of durational performance, a contemporary art genre that explores questions of stamina, intimacy, relevance, and slowness in contemporary life. Such performances often encapsulate the notion of relational aesthetics, a conceptual framework in which the artist searches for meaning through the construction of social interactions. Scala’s lecture encourages viewers to consider Kjartansson’s work in light of the fundamental question “Is it an object or an experience?”


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