performance by Ragnar Kjartansson
28 October 2019
5.30 pm — 11.30 pm
The Mayakovsky Theatre
Bolshaya Nikitskaya st. 19/13
God is a performance by Ragnar Kjartansson, which plays with the concept of repetition and duration. The artist appears in the persona of a classic “crooner”, accompanied by his collaborator, the pianist Davíð Þór Jónsson, and an orchestra on a stage evoking a mid 20th century pop-concert. Ragnar, repeating the phrase “Sorrow Conquers Happiness”, sways to an eight-bar melody in a minor key, which crescendos to its culmination, and then starts again.
In God, Ragnar Kjartansson digs into sadness drenched in sugar. The key line from the song came to life back in 2005, as the artist was singing with his band Trabant. At one of their late-night shows, Ragnar started screaming “Sorrow Conquers Happiness”, the crowd took up the chant, and something was born. The piece then took shape with the collaboration of Davíð Þór Jónsson, who wrote the music. It was first performed with Jónsson´s jazz trio Flís in Reykjavík, accompanied by the local police choir. Kjartansson filmed the performance in 2007, and since then the video has been shown many times at various museums. In 2014, God was performed in Russian as part of Manifesta 10 at the Vitebsk train station in St. Petersburg.
In this version, Ragnar and Davíð, together with invited musicians, perform inside the Mayakovsky theatre in Moscow. The venue’s lush pinkish interior and history amplify the core of the piece. The art piece invites you to sit back in lushness and history and fall asleep to the sound of sorrow. As Victor Hugo said, “Melancholia is the joy of being sad”.
The setting for this performance is carefully styled by the artist, who wears a black tuxedo and a neat smoothed-back hairdo, and performs on a stage framed by heavy pink curtains, creating an omnipresent theatrical atmosphere. All these elements play with the sense of sorrow as an alluring and luxurious pleasure. In such conditions, melancholy appears as a privilege and a sign of social entropy, much as it was described in the classic 19th century novel by Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov.