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October 1st, 2020

Each week, Artful spotlights an art experience or destination that speaks to us right now.

After months of remote everything, the image of musicians playing in unison on separate screens is a familiar one. A video installation by the Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson, made back in 2012 and now on view starting October 1 at the ICA Boston, now looks eerily predictive of this phenomenon. Filmed at Rokeby farm in upstate New York, "The Visitors" shows the artist and his friends singing and playing instruments from different rooms of a run-down mansion (Kjartansson from the bathroom, where he strums a guitar in the tub). The sound is repetitive but melodious, and the total effect is revitalizing—even if we might now associate this alone-together format with so many Zoom concerts, the easy camaraderie of the performers transcends their physical isolation from one another.

It feels appropriate that the ICA Boston has made "The Visitors" the first newly installed work in its galleries since its reopening. Even if it might at first seem to evoke scattered groups and splintered ensembles, it resolves into a celebration of community and connection—and with its multiple screens that envelop the viewer, truly has to be seen in person. As Kjartansson told The Guardian in an interview about the piece last year, "I think it's a good thing that it can't be shared online, it's really about spatial experience."

Ragnar Kjartansson, "The Visitors" (still), 2012. Nine-channel video projection (color, sound; 64:00 minutes). Gift of Graham and Ann Gund to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and Gund Gallery at Kenyon College. Courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik. © Ragnar KjartanssonRagnar Kjartansson, "The Visitors" (still), 2012. Nine-channel video projection (color, sound; 64:00 minutes). Gift of Graham and Ann Gund to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and Gund Gallery at Kenyon College. Courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik. © Ragnar KjartanssonRagnar Kjartansson, "The Visitors" (still), 2012. Nine-channel video projection (color, sound; 64:00 minutes). Gift of Graham and Ann Gund to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and Gund Gallery at Kenyon College. Courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik. © Ragnar KjartanssonRagnar Kjartansson, "The Visitors" (still), 2012. Nine-channel video projection (color, sound; 64:00 minutes). Gift of Graham and Ann Gund to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and Gund Gallery at Kenyon College. Courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik. © Ragnar Kjartansson

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