As part of a new series of contemporary installations, The Met presents the world premiere of a major new work: Death Is Elsewhere (2019), a seven-channel video installation by the acclaimed Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. Provocatively rethinking the possibilities for performance and video art, Kjartansson makes work in which he simultaneously evokes Romantic clichés while using irony, nihilism, and absurdity to undermine them.
Death Is Elsewhere is the most recent in a series of durational performance-based works in which a single song is performed without beginning or end, in a nearly continuous loop. Filmed around the time of the summer solstice shortly after midnight in southern Iceland, Death Is Elsewhere features male and female pairs of twins (Kjartansson's frequent collaborators: the musicians Gyða and Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir, and Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the National), performing the title song against a landscape of sublime natural beauty, as they move continuously across seven screens, encircling the viewer. Despite the idyllic setting and dulcet song, the specter of death is omnipresent.
"A lush, ambiguous meditation on the relentless passage of time." —Wall Street Journal
"This is one of the most compelling, do-not-miss-it artworks in New York of the season." —Hyperallergic
"The lyric and the musicians' tendency to disappear and reappear as they move from frame to frame both evoke the impossibility of grasping death while you're still alive." —New York Times
The exhibition is made possible by Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee.
Additional support is provided by the Director's Fund and The Modern Circle.
In this short essay, Kjartansson muses on Death Is Elsewhere's relationship to Icelandic storytelling traditions.
Ragnar Kjartansson (Icelandic, b. 1976). Death Is Elsewhere (detail), 2019. Seven-channel video installation, 77 minutes. © Ragnar Kjartansson; Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik