Ragnar Kjartansson

Born: 1976

Hometown: Reykjaví­k, Iceland

Lives and Works: Reykjaví­k, Iceland

Education: The Icelandic Academy of Arts, Reykjavik, Iceland, 2001
The Royal Academy, Stockholm, Sweden, 2000

Works by the Artist

Ragnar Kjartansson Bio

About The Artist

Ragnar Kjartansson's tragicomic performances take on the boundaries between art and life, fiction and reality. His work is often about the nature of art, addressing our romantic mythology of the Artist as mysterious, elevated, or bohemian. Though primarily a performance, video, and installation artist, Kjartansson does it all, regularly incorporating painting, drawing, sculpture, and music (he is pop royalty in his native Iceland) into his practice.

Theatricality, repetition, and identity are recurring themes in Kjartansson's performances, in which he often stars as a version of himself melded with a character from cultural history. For example, in his 2006 live performance Sorrow Conquers Happiness, captured in the video God, Kjartansson posed as a debonair 1940s nightclub crooner, singing "sorrow conquers happiness" over and over accompanied by a jazz trio before falling into a trance. In his 2008 Schumann Machine, he built a shack decorated with flames and inside recited a dramatic poem accompanied by a piano. These works, funny and farcical yet melancholic, exaggerate the romanticism of artistic emotion.

Unlike infamous performance artists like Marina Abramovic and Chris Burden who make the viewer feel uncomfortable through their suffering and endurance, Kjartansson's performances are enjoyable to watch and do not alienate the viewer. He says, "I try to take a theatrical approach to make it look easy. Like: 'Ha ha ha! I'm enjoying myself, in opera!'"

Click here to read our interview with Ragnar Kjartansson falling in love, pretending not to care, and bringing a pocketknife to art fairs.

Click here to watch a clip of Ragnar Kjartansson's 2013 Venice Biennale performance.


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