With Scheize – Liebe – Sehnsucht, the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart is showing Ragnar Kjartansson's most extensive show to date in Germany. It brings together all the essential thematic complexes of his oeuvre—from a video series begun in 2000 to new works to be seen for the first time in the exhibition.
Ragnar Kjartansson (b. 1976 in Reykjavík, IS) was born into a theater family. The degree to which this has shaped him is reflected in his works, which combine music, literature, the visual and the performing arts as well as contemporary popular culture. Kjartansson brings together different media and genres although performance represents the basis of his artistic practice. His work centers on artist stereotypes and clichés associated with the Western culture of memory and knowledge. The key characteristics of his art are an extremely extended playing time, repetitions, loops, parody, and alienation. These stylistic devises generate a strong emotional effect, spanning the entire spectrum of human emotions—from love and melancholy to pain. With pointed intensification and humor, Kjartansson time and again disrupts the romantic spirit surrounding his works.
The exhibition features videos, paintings, drawings, sculptures, and a live performance, uniting all the essential themes of Kjartansson’s oeuvre, ranging from the video series Me and My Mother 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015, begun in 2000, to his new works, such as the spatially expansive video installation Death is Elsewhere (2019), on view in Europe for the first time. With seven screens arranged in a circle, the installation surrounds beholders visually and aurally with a panorama of an Islandic landscape in which two pairs of twins wander continuously while singing of their mutual affection. In Kjartansson’s live performance Tod einer Dame (2019), conceived specifically for the Kunstmuseum, fake blood flows and artificial snow falls as we watch a young woman in a continual process of "staged" dying.
Kjartansson studied painting at the Iceland Academy of the Arts in Reykjavík and at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. His work has been recognized with various exhibitions at renowned institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2019), the Faurschou Foundation in Beijing (2018), the Reykjavík Art Museum (2017), the Barbican Centre in London (2016–17), the Palais de Tokyo in Paris (2015–16), and the Migros Museum für Zeitgenössische Kunst in Zurich (2012). In 2009 the artist represented Iceland at the 53rd Venice Biennale, and in 2011 he was awarded Performa 11 Malcolm McLaren Award for his performance Bliss.
The exhibition takes place under the patronage of the icelandic ambassador H.E. Martin Eyjólfsson.
Curators: Ulrike Groos, Carolin Wurzbacher
Project assistance: Anne-Kathrin Segler