Have you ever dreamed of camping out in a museum? Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson has and, lucky for him, his fantasy became reality this week.
Kjartansson, along with artists Hrafnhildur Arnardottir and Ingibjörg Sigurjónsdóttir-- and a gaggle of other Reykjavik-based peers, have been living and working in MoMA PS1's ongoing installation, "Colony," for the past several days. Consisting of a series of outdoor trailers designed by Argentinean architecture firm a77, the project is meant to bring together "artists, thinkers, architects, and other cultural agents" who wish to participate in MoMA's experiment with communal living and alternative studio design.
"We've basically been camping out in Queens," Kjartansson explained in a phone conversation with The Huffington Post. "We have trailers, tents, a kitchen, showers, toilets. It’s a beautiful place where we have this opportunity to be in strange circumstances and work on art together, exchange ideas. Get away from our regular reality."
"Colony" is part of the institute's larger summer exhibition, "EXPO: 1," a multi-disciplinary show dedicated to exploring the impact of ecological concerns on design. In keeping with theme, "Colony" pushes artists and viewers to reconsider the state of architecture and art-making in contemporary society. For the artists, this means altering their conception of individual versus collaborative creation. For the viewers, it provokes a new understanding of how public spaces can be used.
"There are many challenges involved with living and working together here," Kjartansson stated. "When the toilet overflows or something. Though they all just make the experience more memorable. It’s human bonding. Sleeping in a tent with a friends, smelling your friends. All those lovely things."
Of course, Kjartansson and company haven't just been sleeping and smelling each other; the group has been working on one art endeavor in particular -- a mysterious installation titled "Civilization: Monumental Materialization." Part musical experience, part traditional performance art, the work has been kept under wraps except for this ambiguous invitation luring art admirers to the Long Island City locale this afternoon.
"[Civilization] is going to consist of foam," Kjartansson confirmed, after a bit of prodding. "It’s an installation and things are going to materialize out of the foam. There's going to be a performance in it, musical stuff and also performance art."
So it's a foam party? Kjartansson's response: "People should come and join. It’s going to be a weird, poetic experience. We’ve been reading Kenneth Clark, an art historian from the '60s. We were inspired by his book 'Civilisation' -- we've been reading it out loud to each other here."
How exactly this foam/art history extravaganza fits into the exhibition's broader goal of transforming ecological concerns into social practice, we don't know. Then again, "EXPO: 1" also includes one giant chunk of iceberg on display courtesy of Olafur Eliasson.
Kjartansson is not the first artist to be invited to "Colony." Two groups of artists, including Ben Rivers, Ben Russell, and Georgia Sagri, have already spent their time in the PS1 paradise, and three sets of residents (spoiler: Glenn O’Brien is one of them) are set to follow suit in the following weeks.