The Visitors

This week at the ICA Boston, “The Visitors,” by Ragnar Kjartansson opens.

  • The Visitors ICA Boston Ragnar Kjartansson Postor MG Markham Design Blog
  • The Visitors ICA Detail MG Markham Design Blog
  • The Visitors ICA Boston Ragnar Kjartansson Artist Bio MG Markham Design Blog
  • The Visitors ICA Boston Detail MG Markham Design Blog

Filmed in crumbling mansion in upstate New York, Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson orchestrates a group of his closest friends in what I what felt to me like a worship service. Although it’s been years since I identified as a believer, It’s hard to shake the association of transcendent, communal, performance art with the term “church.” It’s as if the highest form of creative, musical, human connection is still reaching for a mythical plane I still internally refer to as church. In this unique installation, each musician performs from a different room in the charmingly wasting mansion with only the sound of her compatriots piped in via headset for accompaniment, and is filmed for the duration of the 64 minute piece. Kjartansson arranges this collaborative recording to the words of a his ex-wife’s poem, set to another Icelandic musical artist’s tune. The haunting lyrics “Once again…I fall into…my feminine…ways…” repeat from the museum’s installation of 8-10 giant screens, on which each of the artist/s recording is displayed, so that the viewer can wander through the dark room and watch each musician’s idiosyncratic pauses, postures, and performances at once, whilst listening to the composite audio of their collaborative musical piece.

Interestingly, Kjartansson calls this piece a “feminine nihilistic gospel song,” aligning with my own impression that this group is creating and performing a spiritual event/sentiment/experience. It makes me want to immediately replicate this with my own dear fellow songwriters, just to see what might happen to the musical piece, what might emerge from such a singular enactment of a musical arrangement.

As a musician, songwriters, and performer myself, I was impressed with the restraint showed by each musician. To play a piece with as many as eight or more instrumentalists is a feat in itself; leaving “room” in the piece for dynamics and texture is no easy thing. These group of musicians held back almost completely, and perform a beautiful work of impulse, sensitivity, response, and interplay that seem to carry an air of recognition, of restraint, and of resignation.

A pink rose, in the glittery frost, a diamond hear, and the orange red fire
One again I fall into my feminine ways
You protect the world from me, as I’m the only one who’s cruel,
you have taken me, to the bitter end
One again I fall into my feminine ways
(Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir)

Additionally, I was intrigued by this piece of musical notation based artwork, and by the giant scale quilt art piece by Jim Hodges. Growing up with a mother who fastidiously quilted, I have always found abstract art quilting highly appealing, and created a number of very basic bedding pieces myself for friends. One day I’d like to attempt a huge portrait quilt. In the mean time, I quite enjoyed this biblical epic of a quilt, among some other interesting pieces of textile art on display on floor 4.


  • Design Blog MG Markham ICA Musical Notation Art
  • Design Blog MG Markham ICA Jim Hodges Art Quilt Detail
  • Design Blog MG Markham ICA Jim Hodges Quilt Art
  • Design Blog MG Markham ICA Jim Hodges Art Quilt

Finally, I am delighted to report that the charming Canto 6, the “Sinfully Rustic” bakery and cafe in Jamaica Plain, is still bustling with activity. The plum tart nearly slayed me with it’s multi layered, crisp, tart perfection, and the Green Street sandwich, [ham, home made organic apple jelly, cheese and greens on the most delicate, buttery croissant I’ve managed to find outside of Paris], is simply the kind of food worth saving ones self for.


  • Canto 6 Bakery Cafe MG Markham Design Blog
  • Canto 6 Boston MG Markham Design Blog
  • Canto 6 Pastry Boston MG Markham Design Blog

August 15, 2014 Comments (0) Blog, markham design, Music

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