Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson has been holding down the fort at New York's New Museum since the beginning of May, performing a sort of abstract family reunion only the contemporary art world would recognize as wholesome fun. Enacted through live, orchestrated shows, drawings, paintings and video pieces, the exhibition introduces audiences to Kjartansson's brood of actors and theater nuts, a lot that definitely doesn't blush at the mention of taboo subjects.
From sexual desires to delusions of grandeur, "Me, My Mother, My Father, and I” covers the major bases of family dysfunction, that is, if the typical family engages together in tantalizing fantasies about plumbers or ten-part polyphony representations of feelings. The main attraction is undoubtedly the artist's ongoing performance "Take Me Here by the Dishwasher: Memorial for a Marriage (2011/2014)," a melody set to play 6,000 times throughout Kjartansson's exhibition.
Sigur Ros alumnus Kjartan Sveinsson composed the song, played by ten musicians -- live -- on the museum's fourth floor. When we say 6,000 times (occurring between May 7 and July 29 of the same year), we mean the misfit band will perform the piece a total of 308 hours. Or 18,480 minutes. Or -- wait for it -- 1,108,800 seconds. Kjartansson is inundating patrons with an earworm worthy of Scandinavian lore.
(Photo: Benoit Pailey)
The Dishwasher band, as we'll hereto forth call them, looks like the granola, free love version of Mumford & Sons, a comparison The New York Times has eagerly noted. All men, they don comfortable clothing and sit haphazardly around the space, lit by lamps and accompanied by footage of the previously mentioned plumber fantasy. The video is taken from a 1970s-era film, "Morðsaga (Murder Story)," starring Kjartansson's parents. (Ragnar was, so the rumor goes, conceived the night that scene was shot.)
Let The Guardian's Jason Farago give you a taste of the ambiance:
On the morning I visit, one of the singers isn't wearing any trousers. Another is barefoot and tangled up in a cheap bedcovering. One is lying fully dressed on a mattress in the corner, gazing at the ceiling like a lovesick pre-Raphaelite – Wallis's Chatterton just before the arsenic took hold, maybe. On the floor are beat-up Converses, frayed jeans and crumpled flannel shirts. All of the musicians have a few bottles of beer beside them, which they got from a fridge in the gallery. No matter that it's just after 10am.
And yes, this happens 6,000 times. For a total of 18,480 minutes. Or over one million seconds. And you can see a preview of the curious beauty above.
Kjartansson is no stranger to endurance-heavy performance. He took himself on a five-month long float trip/concert in Venice, a city that also played home to his six-month long "painting marathon." And who could forget his 12-hour loop of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro."
Check out his latest at the New Museum and let us know your thoughts on the artist in the comments.