Ragnar Kjartansson: the video installation 'The Visitors' is based on a performance piece he staged in the legendary villa Rokeby on the shore of the Hudson River in Upstate New York. The work, shot using several cameras in a single take for each scene, is presented on screens set up throughout the generously sized exhibition space. For 'Collection on Display' works by Phyllida Barlow, Jimmie Durham, Daniel Knorr, Mark Leckey.
Collection on Display: Phyllida Barlow, Jimmie Durham, Daniel Knorr, Mark Leckey
Curated by Judith Welter, Collection Curator Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst
In recent years, sculpture and related forms have played a considerable role in the exhibition programming of the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst and its efforts to enlarge its collection. The three-part presentation of art from the collections brings together works that raise questions concerning the potentials of sculpture. As a genre, sculpture—whether figural or abstract—occupied a central position in the history of art from the classical age to the modernist era. As the art historian Rosalind Krauss has argued, since the onset of postmodernism, the conception of sculpture has been expanded as its boundaries have become blurry—sculpture has quite literally been knocked off its pedestal. Sculptural creativity extended into a variety of media and materials, exploring the possibilities of space.
The works on display interrogate the transformation and status of sculptural art and examine the ways it is perceived. They incorporate objects from urban space or address the role and function of sculpture in the public sphere. In the oeuvre of Phyllida Barlow (b. Newcastle upon Tyne, 1944), elements of urban architecture play a central part. Her often expansive works examine political and psychological dimensions of objects steeped in symbolic power such as flags or signage to address the sculptural qualities of architectonic forms in public space.
The traditional logic of sculpture is closely associated with that of the monument; the historiography of art has frequently defined both genres on the basis of their representative potential and their ability to anchor remembrance. Daniel Knorr (b. Bucharest, 1968) studies this historically determined alliance in a piece of performance art: he makes statues in central Copenhagen wear masks and then takes their photographs. Covered by a balaclava, their faces articulate a critical view of the representation and function of history in public places.
Mark Leckey (b. London, 1964) likewise addresses sculpture in the public sphere. The protagonists in his video are sculptures set in London’s urban space, presented here in a digital slide show accompanied by thudding music. The work brings the sculptures, which are for the most part fameless and unappreciated, to our attention and stages them in a fresh perspective.
Jimmie Durham (b. Washington, Arkansas, 1940) explores political and social issues; his reflections usually manifest themselves in sculptural compositions of “objets trouvés.” His sculpture «Alpine Substance on Wolfsburg Construction» consists of a bright red VW Beetle and a massive boulder: it looks as though the car had been hit by a falling rock or a meteorite while traveling at full speed. As with many of Durham’s works, the static object evinces traces of a performative action—in this instance, the artist directed the rock to be dropped onto the car’s roof in an act of deliberate violence. Durham examines issues of ecology and the growing omnipresence of technology in subtle and often ironic and funny ways.
Curated by Heike Munder, Director Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst
In June, Ragnar Kjartansson’s performance piece «An die Musik» inaugurated the new exhibition spaces of the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst during the Löwenbräukunst preview. On the occasion of the museum’s official opening to the public, the Icelandic artist now presents his first solo show in Switzerland. The video installation «The Visitors» is based on a performance piece he staged in the legendary villa Rokeby on the shore of the Hudson River in Upstate New York.
Almost two hundred years old, Rokeby is now headed by Ricky Aldrich and his Polish wife, Ania, who has devoted herself to shamanism since the 1970s, an interest that has helped define the villa’s peculiar atmosphere. Even though the many guests who come and go animate the house, it feels like a museum where traces and recollections of generations past are being preserved.
As with most of Ragnar Kjartansson’s performance and video art, music and creative collaboration with friends play a crucial role in «The Visitors». The project’s kernel is a poem by the artist Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir. Kjartansson had set the text to music for a performance by Gunnarsdóttir a few years earlier; he now uses the music in a different context. He has several protagonists perform the song in a variety of settings—some appear in one of the many rooms at Rokeby, others in the property’s picturesque surroundings. Each part focuses on a new room and a different musician.
The work, shot using several cameras in a single take for each scene, is presented on screens set up throughout the generously sized exhibition space. The individual scenes thus coalesce into an encompassing cinematographic tableau. The visitors are free to amble through the gallery and linger before the individual projections as they please.
«The Visitors», Ragnar Kjartansson recalls, also pays homage to the Swedish pop band ABBA. The title alludes to the ABBA album also called «The Visitors», which came out in 1981; the band’s eighth and last record, it strikes a surprising and almost somber note—ABBA broke apart soon after the album came out, with members blaming crises in their relationships and their exhaustion.
Kjartansson’s affinity for music is evident not least in his own musical practice with the bands Trabant, The Funerals, Kanada, Kósý, and his current band, Ragnar Kjartansson & The All Star Band. The core of that last formation consists of five musicians and Kjartansson himself; other artist friends join them for performances. For the vernissage on 16 November 2012, the Museum extends an invitation to a special event: from 9:30pm Ragnar Kjartansson will take to the stage and set the mood with his All Star Band.
Ragnar Kjartansson was invited to participate in Performa 11, New York (2011). Solo exhibitions: Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin (2012); Arthouse at the Jones Center, Austin; Frankfurter Kunstverein; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami; BAWAG Contemporary, Vienna; i8 Gallery, Reykjavík (all in 2011). In 2009, he designed the Icelandic pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
A monograph about his art will be published by JRP|Ringier in conjunction with the show.
Raphael Gygax T. +41 44 2772050 F. +41 44 2776286 firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening: Friday, 16 November 2012, 6 pm
Albisriederstrasse 199A CH-8047 Zürich
Opening hours Tue, Wed, Fri 12 – 6 pm, Thu 12 – 8 pm
Sat, Sun 11 am – 5 pm
Admission Adults: SFR 8 Reduced: SFR 4
Free entry for children and students under 16. Thursday 5 - 8 pm free admission