Ragnar On Ragnar

The Many Guises of Unstoppable Icelandic Artist Ragnar Kjartansson

For Ragnar Kjartansson, the story of a work is more important than its physical form. “I still don’t understand the art object,” says the multitalented Iceland native. As if to prove it, he has taken over the entire exhibition space of Thyssen Bornemisza Art Contemporary in Vienna—where today’s film was shot by Pavel Raev—together with a brigade of 19 Icelandic performers, in order to recreate Halldór Laxness’ epic, World Light, a novel that decrypts the artistic DNA of his volcanic homeland. Using the space as an old-school movie set, this month-long performance results in daily-shot scenes, which, simultaneously played, produce a cacophony of melancholic music, sounds and images that depict the quest for beauty that Kjartansson shares with the main character of the novel. Also currently showing at New York’s New Museum, he is known for his indefatigable creative practice, constantly swinging between performance, video, painting and music. In 2009, he became the youngest artist ever to represent Iceland at the Venice Biennale with “The End,” a work that saw him paint the portrait of a single male model, day after day, during the entire six months of the show, with packs of cigarettes, empty bottles and painted canvases accumulating around him. Kjartansson exudes a kind of rock star magnetism: a founding member of the electro-indie band Trabant, he persuaded The National to play their song “Sorrow” for six hours for his piece “A Lot of Sorrow” at New York’s PS1 last year.—Igor Ramírez García-Peralta

Igor Ramírez García-Peralta contributes to
Harper’s Bazaar en Español, Gatopardo (Mexico), Artribune (Italy) and Parterre de Rois (Italy/UK).

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    Les Fleurs

    Director Saam Farahmand Heats Up the Body Hair Debate in the First of Our Weekly #DefineBeauty Series

    “One of the things I appreciate most about female beauty is what’s commonly appreciated the least,” says Saam Farahmand of his ode to body hair that launches NOWNESS’ new five-part series #DefineBeauty. “I wanted to find something about women that was almost unanimously disliked.” The transformation of the female form from hairless ideal to glorious natural state is set to the rousing score of Minnie Riperton’s “Les Fleurs.” “There was something so affecting about Minnie Riperton’s ability to breathe her gender—she speaks to female sexuality in a way that seems to exclude male consideration,” says the London-based filmmaker, known for his collaborations with The xx, Soulwax and Alexander McQueen. “It was important to immerse the viewer in the female form, an overwhelming landscape where the smallest shifts are amplified,” he adds, inspired by iconic nudes of Madonna by American photographer Lee Friedlander taken in 1979, the year he was born. The topic coincidentally reverberated across social media throughout the duration of the film’s development, from Madonna’s untamed underarms to Canadian artist Petra Collins’ bikini-line censorship by Instagram. “I need to be clear that this film is in no way reactionary,” says Farahmand. “It’s possible the subject resonates as people are always looking for a way to distinguish themselves from commonalities. If there is a genuine renaissance of female body hair in London, New York or Berlin, then like the modern man’s neo-beard, it will be abandoned when the first tufts start creeping out of glamour models’ armpits on reality TV shows.”

    The next #DefineBeauty film premieres Tuesday May 13.

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    Sigur Rós: Valtari

    Christian Larson's Industrial Seduction for the Icelandic Outfit’s New Album

    Two isolated individuals carnally collide in Swedish director Christian Larson’s collaboration with Antwerp-born choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui for the orchestral rockers Sigur Rós. "The dancers copy each other’s movements and flow into one another," Cherkaoui explains of the sensual ritual. The video is the 14th in the Valtari Mystery Film Experiment, a series commissioned by the Icelandic band to herald the release of their new album Valtari, giving filmmakers such as Ryan McGinley total creative freedom yet the same budget to interpret the record. Larson, also a trained dancer, has directed commercials for brands like Absolut and Roche Bobois as well as music videos for Tinie Tempah and Swedish House Mafia; for this film he chose four different tracks from Sigur Rós' recent release: "Ekki Múkk", "Valtari", "Rembihnútur" and "Varúð". Cherkaoui, who worked on projects with the Royal Danish Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and Anthony Gormley before starting his own company, Eastman, in 2010, enlisted Australian dancers James O’Hara and Nicola Leahey for this stirring piece. “There was an interesting contrast with this very harsh environment,” explains Larson of the fluid choreography for the film, shot in a disused MOD base. “I wanted to try and make a dialogue through movement, without anyone saying anything."
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