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Ragnar Kjartansson / The National: A Lot of Sorrow

Through October 23, 2016
Gallery 186

Icelandic artist and musician Ragnar Kjartansson’s often intensely durational performance-based works manifest a rare synthesis of pathos and humor. A Lot of Sorrow is both a music video and an extended concert film, in which Brooklyn-based band the National performs its three-and-a-half minute ballad “Sorrow” on repeat for six hours. The band’s music and lyrics frequently conjure notions of romantic suffering and melancholy—themes common to Kjartansson’s emotive, theatrical work.

As the hours pass and fatigue sets in, the musicians subtly alter their song; the original track is always recognizable but is also shown to be elastic and expressive rather than rigid. Kjartansson is sometimes visible in the role of roadie, offering water and food to the performers throughout the concert. Multiple camera angles grant the viewer access to both the perspective of the musicians and that of the audience, as the band and the crowd feed off each other’s energy with every repetition.

Please note: Every Thursday, the video will start from the beginning at 1:45, allowing interested visitors to watch the entire six hour performance during museum hours.

Ragnar Kjartansson / The National. A Lot of Sorrow, 2013–14. Restricted gift of Stephanie Skestos Gabriele. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. Photo by Elisabet Davidsdottir.