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

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    “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.”

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