15 Jun - 18 Aug
Tórshavn (capital)
Free
Art – Visual

Exhibition: Ragnar Kjartansson - Nøkur verk (IS)

x
The Nordic House in the Faroe Islands is showcasing the works “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt” and “A lot of Sorrow” with the exhibition ‘Ragnar Kjartansson – Nøkur verk’ that runs from June 15th to August 18th, 2019. In addition, 15 drawings from the series “Omnispresent Salty Death” and the videowork “Satan is Real” will be exhibited. We would like to warmly thank the artist and his whole team.

Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt „Lied der Mignon“

Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt

Weiss, was ich leide!

Allein und abgetrennt

Von aller Freude,

Seh’ ich an’s Firmament

Nach jener Seite.

Ach! der mich liebt und kennt

Ist in der Weite.

Es schwindelt mir, es brennt

Mein Eingeweide.

Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt

Weiss, was ich leide!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt , only the one who knows yearning. For German composer, playwright, author, politician and natural scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) yearning has a clear meaning. Yearning for love, for the beloved. Yearning for the big feelings and yearning for insight. Yearning for nature and yearning to become one with nature. Yearning for an interconnection between past and present. Yearning for harmony, the universal, the organic whole, the all.

Yearning is an inescapable element of the romantic worldwide. In a worldview where there is a concept of a whole, an organic interconnectedness, where a spirit permeates everything, where a primeval force holds everything together, where there is no discrepancy between the physical and the spiritual and where humans are one with nature, yearning is inevitable. For humans can but aspire to become one with nature, humans must acknowledge their own isolation and wanting connectedness to the past, and must come to recognise that the great harmonic whole goes hand-in-hand with fragmentation. But we can yearn.

Yearning therefore becomes the link to the all-encompassing interconnection. Yearning is a halfway point. It is in yearning, in transition, that the romantic individual feels the most fulfilled. It is in the unfulfilled that we find the greatest intensity. In falling in love, in impossible love. In the expectation of encounters with majestic nature. In the sensation of the infinite and the sublime. The individual feels alive in yearning and yearning drives art, and through art we gain insight into the whole.

Yearning, and thereby art, encompass everything, and every thing amounts to the whole.  A whole that in Goethe’s works is diverse, ambiguous and contradictory.

Two-hundred years removed from the romantic period, Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson (1976) moves in a great fluid field where visual art, film, music, theatre and literature merge in a diverse, ambiguous and contradictory whole of performances, drawings, paintings, video pieces and installations.

In this field Ragnar Kjartansson has created works like “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt”, which carries the title of Goethe’s poem. The piece is a mountainscape, hard cliffs and snow-clad summits of freestanding cut and painted planes on one side. On the other side we find raw unpainted plywood panels, but it is of equal importance. The piece does not consist of a recto and verso, but rather a whole, albeit an unfinished whole. A whole we can move around in, yearning and searching and finding what lies inbetween. The borderland between happiness and sorrow. The moment from harmony to fragmentation. The movement from one extreme to another. The tension between comedy and tragedy. The encounter between the everyday and banal and the otherworldly, the amazing and sublime.

Thus “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt” is not just a work of art, it is a backdrop for actions, a context wherein something can be understood, a setting where something can play out, a scene for the individual’s exploits. The act of pretending, staging, acting can, like yearning, be characterised as a transition or shift from something to something else. Perhaps from past to present and back again. Perhaps from culture and modern society and into nature, which appears more independent of concrete reality and more receptive to spirit, fantasy and wildness, and then back again. Or, with several transitions, from pathos to humour to melancholy and back again. Or still further transitions. An eternal motion back and forth, round and round.

When Ragnar Kjartansson with his work “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt” allows little nods to the Romantic Period, it is not necessarily because the piece shares the same essence as Goethe’s poem, or that it is a comment on Romanticism. The artist draws on elements of Romanticism and plays with them. He plays with romantic poetry’s penchant for repetition, with its fixation on our place in nature as humans and the worship of experiencing nature, with the love of interludes where something changes from one state to another, with the focus on individualism and theatricality, and he plays with how the romantic feeling freely, and abruptly sometimes, oscillates between vehement, elated, sensuous and heartfelt.

But Goethe and Romanticism are mere options out of countless options. The way the piece relates to them is not direct and cannot be described as reference or comment, as this relationship is both more indirect and more dynamic and in constant movement. Perhaps it would be better described with the prefix ‘re’, and not only one ‘re’, but many such as reliving, recalling, reseing, resonating, rethinking, rediscovering, reawakening, reattributing responding or repeating.

This wondrous interplay draws in not just the past, but also the present. And not just Romanticism, but also pop culture. In the piece “A lot of Sorrow”, which Ragnar Kjartansson created with American indie rock band The National, both the present and pop culture are resolutely framed in an infinite motion of repetitions.

“A lot of Sorrow” is a video piece, a video performance featuring a concert lasting over six hours with a band performing a single song, ‘A lot of Sorrow’. Continuously. Over and over. The lyrics, which quickly take hold in the listener’s head, follow sorrow with its contradictions. Sorrow is associated with a degree of pleasure, sweet misery; sorrow is the starting point for everything and has to be clasped to the bosom so it will not vanish. In sorrow you can wander freely between states of mind and between times and places. Sorrow forms a microcosm, a closed circle on eternal repeat. A loop.

The repetition is very concrete. The song is repeated for hours, the band keeps playing, the singer keeps on singing and the very literal repetition becomes exhausting, but perhaps in the exhaustion lies a slim possibility, a hope of reaching another state, transcending, reaching the sublime. That which lies over and beyond all that is mere matter and is of infinite and supernatural magnificence. The sublime is reached through monotony, yet is still interrupted by the human element, little breaks in uniformity, minute variations that arise when humans are part of anything. Particularly when humans take part in trials of strength such as this true demonstration of endurance. Because while the sublime is being cultivated, a drama unfolds, we witness fatigue setting in, see the individual overcome with emotion, see energy rebound merely to fade again. Both sides exist in parallel in a forceful expression. The sublime, the overwhelming, the inexplicable and the transgressive and at the same time the more down-to-earth, very human tragicomic drama. Never neither-nor, always either-or. Ragnar Kjartansson makes everything coexist, in conflict or in harmony, always together. It is extraordinary. Extraordinarily amazing.

A lot of sorrow

Sorrow found me when I was young,
Sorrow waited, sorrow won.
Sorrow that put me on the pills,
It’s in my honey it’s in my milk.
It’s only about half a heart alone
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.
‘Cause I don’t wanna get over you.
I don’t wanna get over you.

Sorrows my body on the waves
Sorrows a girl inside my cage
I live in a city sorrow built
It’s in my honey, it’s in my milk.
It’s only my half of heart alone,
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.
‘Cause I don’t wanna get over you.
I don’t wanna get over you.

It’s only my half of heart alone,
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.

‘Cause I don’t wanna get over you.

I don’t wanna get over you.

Aaron B. Dessner / Matthew D. Berninger

Address

Nordic House - Norðurlandahúsið

Norðari Ringvegur
100 Tórshavn
Tórshavn (capital)

Date

15 Jun - 18 Aug Every: Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun

Price

Free