The Back Side of Bliss

“I don’t love you anymore!” and then someone says, “Ok, let’s try it again.” So this is going to be a performance about the same moment, repeated…”

By Max Power - Photos© Icarus Blake


Ragnar Kjartansson photo©Icarus Blake

Every two years a posse of wild performance artists descends upon NYC to participate in Performa (Visual Art Performance Biennal). It was that time of the year. Ragnar Kjartansson won the award for best performance.

photo©Icarus Blake

We’re working till the wee hours to produce our own film for Performa when I get the distress call from Ragnar. It’s 2am and he’s screaming on the phone with his british-icelandic baritone voice. He needs help to paint a gigantic theatrical backdrop for his performance. He has convinced a high profile group of opera singers to perform live on stage for 12 consecutive hours. An Opera Marathon. I cut a deal. He performs in our film and I paint for him.

photo©Icarus Blake

Here we are, at the Abrons Theater, counting beers and listening to Icelandic tales from when Ragnar was a rock star. Elves and sailors getting in all sorts of trouble, with some fairies sprinkling madness on top of it.

photo©Icarus Blake

Endurance is a recurring theme of Ragnar’s performances. For the 2009 Biennale of Venice, he painted his friend in underwear for 6 months while constantly smoking and drinking beer. This preparation also seems based on a don’t-stop-till-you-drop system. But the energy, like always around great artists, is high… and so are we. It’s been a good 20 hours and we finally stand back and look at the amazing work. More like a painting than a simple backdrop. I hear the sound of opera singers rising from the dressing rooms, the rehearsal begins as the last brush drops to the floor. I walk home leaving paint footprints on the sidewalk with a grin on my face.

photo©Icarus Blake


Comments are closed.