Ragnar Kjartansson’s endless lullaby to be performed in a Milan church

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Ragnar Kjartansson

For a month at the church of San Carlo al Lazaretto, singers will perform “Heaven in a Room” for six hours a day as a reminder of the era of COVID-19.

In September, a performance by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson titled Sky in a Room will be presented in a Milan church. According to the organizers, this project is dedicated to the difficult months that we all spent imagining the sky in the room during the quarantine.

The piece, which premiered at the Artes Mundi Biennale at the National Museum for Wales in Cardiff in 2018, will be on display at the Church of San Carlo al Lazaretto from 22 September to 25 October. Professional singers will take turns performing the unearthly sounds of Sky in a Room(1960) by Italian composer Gino Paoli to the accompaniment of a church organ.

Ragnar Kjartansson's endless lullaby to be performed in a Milan church
Interior of San Carlo al Lazaretto

The lyrics of the song raise themes of loneliness, isolation, and ultimately a sense of unity. It will be performed every day continuously for six hours a day as an endless lullaby, the organizers specify. The project is curated by Massimiliano Joni, artistic director of the New Museum in New York.

Kjartansson writes that he likes that Sky in a Room speaks of the ability of the imagination, fired by love, to change the world around us. This is a poem that love and music can blow up the walls of a small enclosed space and let the sky and trees into it.

The sky in the room is an endless, stretching moment. In the Guardian newspaper art critic Adrian Searle, who heard the piece in Cardiff, wrote that people come and go, their attention wanders and returns. We can go in for months and check the emotional weather. This is pure magic.

Kjartansson has repeatedly admitted that he feels as if he is playing the role of an actual artist, and is not really him. At the first acquaintance with his work, it seems that this is a hellish hodgepodge, a parody of gesamtkunstwerk, where theater, video, music, painting, and sculpture now and then pass into each other losing their original outlines. For 15 years the artist has been experimenting with repetitive structures reminiscent of the musical discoveries of the minimalists and deliberately limits his artistic language. Kjartansson’s secret is that he has learned to achieve maximum expressiveness with minimal means.

 

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