Bliss – A Performa Commission for Performa 11

The National Theatre of Iceland 

May 21, 2012 

Bliss is a twelve-hour long video of the staging of the final aria of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. In a single shot the artist performs along with opera singers, full orchestra, scenery, and rococco costume. The screening will be the premiere of this new piece by Ragnar Kjartansson.

Artist Ragnar Kjartansson presented a twelve-hour long performance at Performa 11 in New York in November last year. The performance, entitled Bliss, repeated the delirious final aria of Mozart’s 1786 operaThe Marriage of Figaro and received the biennial’s Malcolm McLaren Award.

A new work by the same title, recoding the full length performance, will be screened on the Main Stage of the National Theatre of Iceland on 21st May. During the 12 hours screening the audience is welcome to wander in and out.

Bliss is a part of the (I)ndependent People Project.

In the final act of the opera, the Count asks the Countess’ forgiveness for his arrogant blunders, which she grants, inspiring the entire court to celebrate. Kjartansson’s work replicates the lavishness of traditional opera with a full orchestra, elaborate scenery, and period costumes, and features renowned Icelandic tenor Kristján Jóhannsson and a group of Icelandic opera singers, as well as the artist himself, continuously replaying the two-minute musical, visual, and narrative pinnacle of the opera, approaching a euphoric state for performers and listeners alike. Arrangements and orchestration was conducted by Davíð Þór Jónsson.

“You could say this work is a collision between art and life, or more precisely, between Mozartian perfection and postmodern entropy, the decay that besets all living things…” Roberta Smith, Arts Beat, The New York Times

“…Bliss […] saw audiences cheering in the aisles, crying in their seats, struck dumb and lifted high by the transforming hallucinatory power of the rococo and the amazing sight of an artist earnestly, even desperately trying to cut through 21st-century irony. It’s a masterpiece.” Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine

Ragnar Kjartansson (b. 1976) has been experimenting with elements of visual art, music, and theatre and considers himself mainly a performance artist. His pieces are characterized by the play between contradictory feelings of – sorrow and happiness, horror and beauty, drama and humor. Kjartansson´s work consists of video, performance, painting and sculpture. His work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions, such as in recent solo shows at the Carnegie Museum of Art (2011); Frankfurter Kunstverein (2011); Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York (2010); Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff, Canada (2010); and The Hafnarfjördur Centre of Culture and Fine Art, Hafnarfjörður, Iceland (2010); Iceland Pavilion, 53rd Venice Biennale (2009), and as part of The Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah (2010); 2nd Turin Triennial, Turin, Italy (2008) and Manifesta 8, Rovereto, Italy (2008).

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