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September 28, 2021 – January 2, 2022

Ragnar Kjartansson, Sumarnótt

Death Is Elsewhere
Sumarnótt (2019) is an immersive videographic installation by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson that plunges the viewer into the pristine beauty of Iceland’s countryside through footage taken under the midnight sun on a cold summer’s night in the shadow of Laki Volcano.

The panoramic installation is composed of seven large screens arranged in a circle. The scene depicts two sets of twins who simultaneously and symmetrically pass from one screen to the next while softly intoning the refrain “death is elsewhere,” to a soothing, yet melancholic tune. To create this musical environment, Kjartansson sought out his frequent collaborators: Bryce and Aaron Dessner of the American band The National, as well as Gyða and Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir, the founding musicians of the Icelandic band múm. Pushing the boundaries of performance and video art, this 77-minute projection offers a meditation on love, death and human relationships through song.

About the artist

Ragnar Kjartansson was born in Reykjavik in 1976 and studied at the Iceland Academy of the Arts and the Royal Academy, in Stockholm, Sweden. In his performative practice, he draws on the entire arc of art, and pretending and staging are key tools in his attempt to convey sincere emotion and offer a genuine experience to the audience. His work has been exhibited widely, including recently at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, the Barbican Art Gallery, in London, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, in Washington, D.C., the Reykjavik Art Museum, the Palais de Tokyo, in Paris, New Museum, in New York, and the Musée d’art contemporain, in Montreal.


Credits and curatorial team

An exhibition organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and made possible thanks to a generous loan from a Montreal collector.
It is curated by Mary-Dailey Desmarais, Chief Curator, MMFA.

Official Sponsor:
With support from:
MMFA’s young Philanthropists’ circle.
Public partners
Conseil des arts de Montréal
Canada Council for the Arts
Gouvernement du Québec

Ragnar Kjartansson. Photo Elisabet Davids

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