02.15.13 6:03 PM ET
An Icelander's Hymn to High Tech
Four stills from the brilliant nine-screen video projection called “The Visitors”, produced by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson and now showing at Luhring Augustine gallery in New York. One day not too long ago, Kjartansson and eight of his Brooklynish friends occupied nine rooms and sites in and around a shabby-chic mansion called Rokeby Farm, upstate in New York. Together (but apart), and in one 53-minute take, they recorded a slightly sentimental, nouveau-hippy song, each one contributing a separate musical line on voice, piano, electric bass, accordion, drums or some other classic-rock instrument. Rokeby Farm says that it is set up to “welcome bohemia and spirituality in all its forms”, and the video made there risks bathing in the same kinds of sentimental cliche. But as the sound weaves together in the gallery space, and the images remain discrete, you realize that Kjartansson’s romantic excesses are perfectly balanced by his technophilic rigor. The technology seems to provide its own ironic gloss on the song’s mawkishness.
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