I had already seen Ragnars Kjartansson’s exhibition at the Barbican once, but I went again to investigate both what and why I got so emotionally touched by it the first time. I also wanted to experience The Visitors — a 1h immersive and moving multichannel video installation — from start to finish.
As I read the exhibition text on the wall on my second visit; it struck me.
“With each work, he takes us on a journey, eliciting responses that range from excitement, sadness, and bemusement to boredom — a panoply of emotions that mirror the human condition.”
I had a notion that our connection could be related to the fact that we both were born in the late 70s and raised in the 80s on the longitude of 64°. He Reykjavik (Iceland), me Skellefteå (Sweden).
Some would say a rather obvious connection. I mean — very obvious. Like: written-in-a-neon-sign-above-the-entrance-obvious. Below is a photograph of the entrance to the Barbican Center during the exhibition, a neon sign spelling ’Scandinavian Pain’…
But I wasn’t satisfied with such a rational explanation as geography for my strong emotional experience.
Boredom. Rather than Scandinavia.
Boredom. Rather than pain.
See, I don’t really related boredom to pain. Boredom, I cherish. It’s something I enjoy. I actually schedule time in my calendar to be bored. I mean — I went a second time to experience a 60 minute video art peice; most people would find that boring; I find it energising.
Most of Ragnar’s work tap into repetition, which many people associate with boredom.
– The Visitors (2012), a 1h long immersive and moving multi-channel video installation.
– Second Movement (2016), featuring two women in quintessential Edwardian costume rowing a boat and embracing in a never-ending kiss (took place on the Barbican Lakeside every Saturday and Sunday, between 1–4pm, weather permitted).
– Take Me Here by the Dishwasher: Memorial for a Marriage (2011), a live performance featuring ten troubadours singing for up to eight hours a day, every day for the duration of the exhibition.
– A Lot of Sorrow (2011), the band The National spending six hours repeatedly performing the same song Sorrow (www.alotofsorrow.com).
to give a few example.
I think my natural calmness and aptitude to autodidactism (self-learning), as well as my discomfort to immerse in external stimuli (such as social media or TV) is partly due to my romantic relationship to boredom.
My guess is that both Ragnar and I were trained in borerdom when we were young. We were taught the gentle art to appreciate boredom. Small cities, far north, pre-internet.
I’m very grateful that he (unlike myself) has not only developed a skill to share the beauty of boredom to a larger audience, but also dedicated his life to do so.