The Visitors at John Curtin Gallery

– by Stephanie Lyon

‘The Visitors’ is an intriguing and ambitious nine screen video installation being shown in Australia for the first time as part of the Perth International Arts Festival.

Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson gathered a group of his close friends at Rokeby a beautiful run down mansion on New York’s Hudson River. Together they take an avante garde approach to the concept of being alone together.

After a week of rehearsals the musicians take their positions in separate rooms of the mansion where they simultaneously perform the 64 minute piece in just one take. Their only connection to each other is through a pair of headphones which enable them to monitor each other’s contribution to the ensemble. ‘The Visitors’ is therefore a fitting title as it is the name of Swedish pop band ABBA’s final studio album which was recorded as divorce was tearing the group apart.

‘The Visitors’ is visually stunning with the modern dress of the performers contrasted with the backdrop of antique furniture, peeling wallpaper, chipped paint, and the heirlooms of the Aldrich family who still reside in the mansion today. It also provides an insight into the process of a multi-camera film shoot; unedited from the moment each of the nine cameras is switched on.

the visitors

The sound is captivating; beautifully layered the soundscape is reminiscent to an indie pop song at times and reminded me of ‘Imogen Heap’ with its soft delicate vocals. The theme of femineity is also present with the lyrics ‘Once again I fall into my feminine ways’ repeated throughout the composition. Most impressive though is how natural unrehearsed sounds flow into the arrangement from Kjartansson splashing water in the bathtub to a bottle of champagne being popped.

The highlight for me though is that ‘The Visitors’ is immersive. It’s impossible to watch all nine screens at one time. You can work your way around the exhibition taking positions where you can see multiple screens at once; or you can take in each screen individually and tune into each musicians uniquely intimate performance.

If your an aspiring film maker, like experimental art, or just want to experience something different I strongly recommend ‘The Visitors’.

LOCATION: John Curtin Gallery, Curtin University, Kent St, Bentley

OPENING TIMES: Open Mon – Fri 11am – 5pm, Sun 1pm-5pm, until April 2

WEBSITE: http://johncurtingallery.curtin.edu.au/exhibitions/current.cfm


Photo credit: Elisabet Davidsdottir, courtesy of ArtGuide and the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík.

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