June 2, 2009 - Icelandic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale - Ragnar Kjartansson at 53rd Venice Biennale
June 2, 2009

Ragnar Kjartansson at 53rd Venice Biennale


14 June – 22 November 2009

Palazzo Michiel dal Brusà
Cannaregio 4391/A
(Entrance on Strada Nova)
Ca’ d’Oro stop on vaporetto (line no. 1)


3 – 13 June 2009:
Daily, 10:00 – 20:00

14 June – 22 November 2009:
Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 – 19:00


Friday, 5 June, 10:00 (registration required)
With book launches for Ragnar Kjartansson – The End and Icelandic Art Today (both published by Hatje Cantz Verlag)

The End, the official Icelandic representation at the 53rd International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia features Ragnar Kjartansson, whose multifaceted artistic practice is rooted in a tradition of acting and performance, with an existential and absurdist sensibility. The End features a tableau vivant of the artist and his model lasting for the entire six-months of the Biennale, along with a monumental video and music installation. It is presented in the Palazzo Michiel dal Brusà, a 14th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal near the Rialto.

Having transformed the palazzo into a makeshift studio for the Biennale, Kjartansson paints the image of a young man posing day after day against the backdrop of the Grand Canal. The man modeling for him, fellow artist Páll Haukur Björnsson, smokes cigarettes and drinks beer, while clothed only in a bathing suit. For six months, Kjartansson will limit his art production to the painting of this scene, producing one work after the other, with the paintings made on previous days left to accumulate around the studio. The performance is partially based on questions of the artist’s self, suggesting his perpetual re-conceptualization in relation to his surroundings and previously existing works of art.

In a separate room, a new video installation consisting of several scenes shot in the Canadian Rocky Mountains display Kjartansson and a collaborator, musician Davíd Thór Jónsson, playing an ambiguous country music arrangement. Recorded in the snow-covered mountains, the expansive sights and sounds in the video are in sharp contrast to the intimate and isolated performance in the adjoining room of the palazzo. Taken together, the recorded performance in the Rocky Mountains and the live performance in Venice create a dramatic juxtaposition between two iconic settings, connected by themes of creativity, camaraderie, and Weltschmerz or world-weariness.

A catalogue has been published for the exhibition by Hatje Cantz Verlag and the Center for Icelandic Art, containing among different essays a correspondence of letters between Kjartansson and artist Andjeas Ejiksson, chronicling preparations for the Pavilion.

Ragnar Kjartansson (b. 1976, Reykjavík, Iceland) has worked extensively with the elements found in The End: durational performance, theater, painting, video, and music. He has been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions at galleries, museums, festivals, biennials and triennials, including the 2nd Turin Triennial, Italy (2008); Manifesta 8, Rovereto, Italy (2008); the Reykjavik Arts Festival, Iceland (2008, 2005, 2004), among others.

Kjartansson graduated from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts in 2001, and he is the youngest artist ever to represent Iceland at the International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.

The End is organized and presented on behalf of the Icelandic Ministry of Culture by the Center for Icelandic Art (CIA.IS) in Reykjavík, Iceland under the commissionership of Christian Schoen, and is curated by Markús T. Andrésson and Dorothée Kirch.

Ragnar Kjartansson – The End is made possible by the generous support of the Icelandic Ministry of Culture; i8 Gallery, Reykjavík; Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York; the Banff-Centre, Banff, Canada; Inn Fjárfesting; Iceland Express; the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs; Island Tours; and Hafnarborg – The Hafnarfjördur Center of Culture and Fine Art, Iceland.

The End – Rocky Mountains was produced in collaboration with the Banff Centre, Canada and the Stephan and Adriana Benediktson Fellowship for Icelandic Artists.

Elizabeth Reina or Antoine Vigne
Blue Medium, Inc.
T: +1 (212) 675-1800
M: +39 389 098 1553 (contact in Venice from 1 – 7 June, 2009)
E: elizabeth@bluemedium.com

Icelandic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
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