Elegy for Art

11.21.13

Venice Biennale Sails into the Sunset

As the festival wraps, Ragnar Kjartansson's boatload of musicians play its closing notes.

The Venice Biennale ends Sunday, and this is my final shoutout to it – an image of the mariner musicians hired by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson to perform for the duration of the event, in a piece called S.S. Hangover. Back and forth they’ve been sailing, day in and day out,  repeating the same elegiac fragment of music for brass as they cross a small pool at the far end of the Biennale grounds. My photo was taken in early June, on opening weekend, but a video uploaded this autumn shows that not much has changed. Kjartansson’s piece provided a lovely, wistful coda to any day’s visit to the exhibition. Now, however, as the grand festival closes for good, the musicians and their audience will have still more to feel poignant about.

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