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Gallery visit: Ragnar Kjartansson & Tai Shani

Ragnar Kjartansson

Kjartansson is an Icelandic artist, and his word, "retinal art is not really a thing in Iceland." I was reading resources as well as watching videos about him and his works among several webpages when many parts of the world under lockdown, galleries and museums were closed and people were staying at home. Different from some other artworks like paintings and sculptures that we can barely see some pictures online, Kjartansson's works gave me a great impression, even different from the other videos or music. It was an evening when the Sun was about to disappear from the skyline, and the last beam of sunlight blended sky into red and orange, and a little bit pink, I played Kjartansson's God and The Visitors in the room.

I could not precisely describe how I feel at that moment, but the singers' voice and instruments' sounds took me away to another space. I felt melancholy but peaceful, sad but fulfilled. Even though the only line of lyric in God was "sorrow conquers happiness," I was neither sorrowful nor happy, his songs reminded me the weather of Iceland as well as Icelandic film Virgin Mountain directed by Dagur Kári.

Dagur Kári's Virgin Mountain (2015)

In the Virgin Mountain, most of the scenes use relatively cool tone and restrained picture, just like Kjartansson's song, the audience cannot perceive strong swings of mood from it. I believe the natural environment of Iceland may subconsciously shape Icelandic people's way of viewing and expressing things. The emotion and spiritual power are implicitly contained in the cover of calmness. His works let me know that the power of music can directly channel two people's mood, which is faster and straighter than the viewer a piece of painting. It was so long-lasting that his songs were echoing in my mind for a long time.

Tai Shani

Tai Shani's Dark Continent (2015)

Tai Shani's projects contain a lot of installations combining with film and photography as well as theatrical performances. She was inspired by many ancient pieces of literature such as Christine de Pizan's proto-feminist book, The Book of the City of Ladies (1405), inspired her Dark Continent (2015). As for me, due to the different culture background, it was hard to read into and I felt a sense of lost when I watching her performance video online. In the small group discussion period, I found many students have the same feeling. Different from Kjartansson's works, Tai Shani's works may require relevant knowledge have in advance.


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