Crawford Art Gallery

A Lot of Sorrow
A Lot of Sorrow     
Ragnar Kjartansson & The National

18/19 September 2015

As part of the Sounds from A Safe Harbour festival curated by Bryce Dessner, the film A Lot of Sorrow was conceived by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson and executed by rock band The National.  Kjartansson sought out The National after hearing their popular lament Sorrow, which playfully and beguiling forms part of the work’s title. This song, of 3:25 minutes, is replayed repeatedly for the immense six hour long performance. This extended and cyclical act draws emotional revelations from the song through the group s repeating and altering performance.  Sadness and longing, along with other more unexpected disclosures, emerge through the groups reiterating moves, sounds, actions, and melodies. Filmed in front of a live audience at MoMA PS1’s Sunday Sessions in May 2013, this collaborative work explores a collective moment where one piece of music becomes interrogated and transformed through expanded duration, the performers’ endurance, and the involvement of the audience. 

To quote Bryce Dessner from The National: “Often when working with visual artists, or with dance, the music is at the service of some larger aesthic agenda or narrative. An ambitious visual artist can sometimes dominate the collaboration; the music feels like underscoring or merely illustrative. In Ragnar’s case, he is actually making the music the piece; they are one and the same. And in that way, it almost feels like something (John) Cage would have done: setting in motion certain ideas but allowing the players to be the subject themselves.”

A Lot of Sorrow continues Kjartansson’s humorous and elucidatory exploration of repetitive presentation for which he is known, garnering him international attention representing his native country at the 53rd Venice Biennale, 2009, and Manifesta 8, Rovereto, Italy 2008. Solo exhibitions include: The Visitors, Faena Art Center, Buenos Aires, 2015; Black Box: Ragnar Kjartansson, Hirschhorn Museum, Washington D.C., 2013, and Endless Longing, Eternal Return, Frankfurter Kunstverein, 2011.