Ragnar Kjartansson and friends
The Palace of the Summerland

Recently dubbed by Vogue as “Ragnar of Reykjavik”, and labeled as “ fun-loving, cigar-smoking, Cadillac-driving, highly entertaining”, Ragnar Kjartansson crosses boundaries between different media with as much ease and grace as he switches between the roles and personas he creates and personifies. In collaboration with a group of approx. 20 talented artists, musicians, and friends, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) is embarking once again on a bold new commission, one that defies traditional categorization in collaboration. Broadening the scope of its interdisciplinary and multimedia investigations, TBA21 will present a two-part project titled The Palace of the Summerland in its spectacular venue at the Augarten in Vienna.

To be a poet is to be a visitor on a distant shore until one dies.“ Halldór Laxness

A megalomaniac journey into the soul of a generation 

From April 3 to April 27, Ragnar Kjartansson and his troupe of musicians, actors, artistic directors, costume designers, camera operators, and technical crew will live and perform continuously in the Augarten exhibition space, transforming it into an active studio, an art factory, and a set for a filmic and theatrical adaptation of the epic novel World Light (Heimsljós), by the Icelandic author and Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness. The Palace of the Summerland is a piece of performance art, flirting with literature, music, and sculpture—a manic journey into the souls of generations of Icelandic artists, presented under the guise of making a film. Kjartansson describes the project as a “megalomaniac quest,” in this case to capture beauty, art, emotion, and the essence of life. Aiming at the impossible, it is a task that has to be tried, completed, lived.

An epic on a softporn budget 

Laxness wrote World Light between 1937 and 1940, around the outbreak of World War II. The Palace of the Summerland, named after the second part of the novel, revolves around the tragic and fateful life of its protagonist, the folk poet Ólafur Kárason, whose constant search for sheer beauty and artistic gratification leads to his final tragic apotheosis.

Kjartansson states: “This story has molded my approach to art more than anything else… It colored my whole worldview… World Light is an epic about the artist. An ironic tale of beauty and artistic integrity written in the crucible of modernism, it is equally an ode to beauty and a deconstruction of it. It speaks to an important 21st-century core: the politics of beauty. The exhibition will be the process of filming scenes from this novel, which depict the utopic creative moment, the search for perfection, and the final romanticized sacrifice for art. The exhibition space will become a Fellini-style studio, a mayhem factory for building, acting, and filming a story on beauty. We are not really making cinema; we are acting out an attempt to make cinema… It is like Paul Auster’s The Book of Illusions.”

The team that the artist has assembled for this project is a robust group of some of Reykjavík’s most prominent artists, comedians, writers, and musicians. It is a gang of the friends who have inspired him in his works. Beginning in April, they will leave behind their regular lives and join Kjartansson on a Fitzcarraldo-like journey. By visiting TBA21–Augarten at different times, the public will experience diverse situations: the team caught in the middle of a rehearsal; Kjartansson with his father introducing the filming of a certain scene; musicians rehearsing a score composed by Kjartan Sveinsson, the composer and former member of Sigur Rós; the production of sets, costumes, and props: literally the entire production process in front of the cameras and behind the scenes. “It will be a factory where we are building, acting, and filming an impossibly big story on beauty. The drama is on-site. We are making an epic on a softporn budget, surrounded by the audience. It is a hopeless task. A true disaster,” says Kjartansson. 

Following this four-week performance, the film/theater sets will become part of a large-scale environmental installation that will be on view at TBA21–Augarten from April 30 to
June 8.> >

DURATION: April 3 - June 8, 2014

Thursday, April 3, 2014, 7 pm

Daniela Zyman
Commissioned by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna and co-produced with Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City

Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York and
i8 Gallery, Reykjavík

all i need
das weisse haus
Embassy of Iceland
Groszer Wein
ImPulsTanz - Vienna International Dance Festival
Steinway in Austria
University of Applied Arts Vienna, Institute of Fine Arts and Media Art, Stage and Film Design Department
Vöslauer Natural Mineral Water
Wiener Räume
Wiener Städtische Versicherungsverein

Wednesday and Thursday 12—5 pm
Friday to Sunday 12—7 pm
Exhibition open until midnight
Saturday, April 5, 12, 19 and 26

Open on all holidays.
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays

Free admission

Getting Here, Opening Hours

For group visits please contact augarten@tba21.org.

LOCATION: Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary,
TBA21–Augarten, Scherzergasse 1A, 1020 Vienna, Austria