Video artist Ragnan Kjartansson’s God, now on view at Washington’sHirshhorn Museum is a half-hour experimental piece in which Kjartansson fronts a retro jazz band singing the mantra “Sorrow conquers happiness” over and over again.
Writes Hyperallergic‘s James Gibbons, “Much of the pleasure of watching God in its entirety comes from the full gamut of associations that the piece calls forth. As the single musical phrase recurs, it begins to possess a solidity, a thingness, as if it were etched in the air, but the viewer — this viewer, at any rate — is not so centered, being lulled instead into a mood where the mind can wander fruitfully where it will. In its repetition, ‘sorrow conquers everything’ becomes at once an absurdly reductive dictum and quite possibly a hard-won truth; a snippet of folk wisdom; a subtitle in a grainy art-house offering of the 1950s or ’60s; an angsty adolescent’s diary entry; or the second line of a melancholy haiku. Banality takes its place beside profundity, irony beside sincerity, and if one’s impressions of the piece contradict one another, all responses seem nonetheless valid. At one point, watching Kjartansson’s facial expression grow increasingly blissed-out and almost absent, his eyes directed heavenward, I sensed an echo of Bernini’s ecstatic St. Teresa. I wasn’t sure what to make of this connection, but I felt happy to have it come to me, and let it simply linger.”
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