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 offers visitors an immersive experience 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.
Death is Elsewhere 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.