There’s a lot of talk about the difference between seeing a “real” person and seeing an AI-generated image. But what about the difference between enjoying a live band and experiencing the installation “The Visitors” by visual-technological artist Ragnar Kjartansson?
The installation was on show at the exhibition Não Sofra Mais, at the Monastery of Santa Clara a Nova in Coimbra and closed this weekend.
It consists of eight videos, each showing a musician playing his instrument; the musicians are in different rooms; these rooms are part of the same house. In a ninth video you can see the house from the outside, a part of the garden of the house; on the balcony people are singing.
The videos are arranged in a large room, four on each side and the ninth in the background. You can walk around the room and stop to watch each musician separately or simply choose a spot to stand and watch/listen. All the sounds are heard together, because all the musicians in the videos are playing the same music. Why then is this fascinating? Isn’t it the same experience as listening to a live band?
What Ragnar managed to do, in my perception, was to show what our bodies are capable of when we listen to music. Music moves us and there, literally, in front of that installation, everyone moved. They walked, they stopped, they got emotional, they danced and, at the end, when the musicians met in a single scene, in a single video, in the same room, the audience gathered together, everyone in front of the same video. Then, when the musicians left that video to appear in the ninth video, outside the house, people literally walked around the room “following” the musicians. At this point, some viewers were already singing the song they sing in the videos.
People walked together after watching the scenes for minutes, each looking at those details that interested them most.
At a concert or show, the audience tends to be limited in movement by both space and circumstance; this is part of the traditional ritual of listening and watching the performance. Ragnar, in contrast, has set the audience to move. The musicians, of course, move too, and while they play you can realise how playing an instrument involves full body movements. One of them even prefers to play inside a bathtub, sometimes resting his guitar on a wooden stand.
But, among several sensations awakened, what I felt most different and special – besides the beauty of the videos and the idea of the installation, very well constructed – was the following: the fact that this work of art promotes the movement of the public among the musicians / videos. People end up walking around the other listeners/spectators, and then we realise that we are not spectators, but part of the whole context. The scene comes to life precisely when those who watch it move and follow the musicians’ movements, with their whole bodies.
Just as they are each in their own room playing their instruments, we are living our lives individually. But we are individual-collective beings. We do not exist without coexisting, but we can only coexist if we exist individually.
The installation thus reminds us of life itself; we are passers-by taking care of our own corners and paths, but we cross each other’s roads and thus affect each other. We are each other’s path. We each play a part of the music, or contribute with an instrument, a note, a layer. But in the end, we are part of the same symphony, all in tune, even if sometimes, isolated in our corners or rooms of our “homes”, we do not realise it.
Stop suffering, you are not alone.
Realise that suffering is part of it and you are alone….