Art with spit and song

Art with spit and song

He gets spat on, sings, swims and drinks. Again and again. Long video sequences with repetitive elements have made the icelandic artist ragnar kjartansson famous beyond his small native country.

Now the stuttgart art museum is dedicating its most comprehensive exhibition to date to him. Under the seemingly provocative title "scheize – liebe – sehnsucht" (shit – love – longing), 26 exhibits, including six large-scale installations, are spread over three floors in the glass cube in the city center.

The work overview, whose title quotes kjartansson’s three favorite german words, presents, among other things, the video series "me and my mother," begun in 2000, in which the artist lets his mother spit on him every five years. In "death is elsewhere" (2019), kjartansson creates a 360-degree panorama of an icelandic landscape on rough canvases set up in a circle, in which two music-making couples sway from one umbrella to the next.

The performance "death of a lady" (2019) is also haunting: a supposed corpse, a bleeding wound on the body, lies prostrate on the museum floor, snow trickles down onto the lifeless body. Every two hours the actress who mimes the corpse is changed. "I got the idea from reading a similar scene in the pushkin novel "onegin," kjartansson says. "She is brutal, delicate and combines all cliches."

In most of his other works, too, kjartansson, who was born in 1976, plays with music and literature, visual and performing arts, and contemporary popular culture, with playing time stretched to the extreme and with repetition. "The principle of these loops is an essential part of my art," explains islander, who was born in 1976. "For me these videos are like paintings. You can look at them briefly and not miss anything else. Or you delve into them and always find something new."

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