This spring, the High Museum of Art will present “The Visitors” (March 6-May 9, 2021), the critically acclaimed video installation by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, who is celebrated internationally for his work combining musical, theatrical and cinematic elements that have been known to evoke personal and collective meaning through an immersive and emotional experience of art. 

Produced in 2012, “The Visitors” is a mesmerizing nine-channel sound and video recording featuring performers and musicians playing a composition by Kjartansson and Davíð Þór Jónsson with lyrics from artist Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir. Although playing together in unison, the performers each occupy separate rooms within a historic 43-room mansion on Rokeby Farm, an estate located in upstate New York. The unique visual and audio arrangement creates a layered portrait of the 200-year-old home and its inhabitants and poignantly expresses the experiences of love and loss, separation and reunion. 

“On one hand, “The Visitors” resonates powerfully with the incessant screen-engagement that has become part and parcel of our year-long experience with the pandemic” said Rand Suffolk, the Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director of the High.  “On the other, its scale, extraordinary eloquence, and humanity is uplifting; propelling those experiencing it far beyond the exhaustion and banality of our collective, isolation-defined moment.” 

Ragnar Kjartansson, “TheVisitors,” 2012, Nine channel video with sound, Duration: 64 minutes. Commissioned by the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich. Photo: Elísabet David. © Ragnar Kjartansson; Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik

“‘The Visitors’ is one of the most affecting works of art produced in the past decade,” added Michael Rooks, the High’s Wieland Family curator of modern and contemporary art. “It builds intensity through the fugal repetition of its intertwining musical and poetic structures, which lead to an emotional release almost spiritual in nature. I can’t think of another artwork that speaks to the desire of love and the warmth of human tenderness–so long deferred during this time of pandemic–with such utter conviction.” 

The installation is accompanied by “Postcards to Marguerite,” a multipart work that draws a literary parallel to the musical exchange between friends in “The Visitors.” Featuring 415 postcards the artist sent to Marguerite Steed Hoffman over a period of 14 months, the work marks a series of prosaic moments alongside significant events of Kjartansson’s life. The postcards provide a visual representation of the passage of time and add an autobiographical layer of meaning to the exhibition through their record of everyday occurrences, including the weather, meals taken, and travel, as well as momentous events such as the birth of his daughter. 

“Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors” is organized by the High and will be presented in the Cousins Family Special Exhibition Galleries on the second level of the Wieland Pavilion. 

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