Last updated: September 16, 2023
I saw this video art installation called “No Tomorrow (2022)” by Ragnar Kjartansson. It was on display at the Luhring Augustine gallery in New York City.
I was a bit obsessed with it. I watched it several times. Now I’ve written this article to collect my thoughts, photographs, and video.
Did you buy a copy of this artwork? Or know someone who did? Email me! I’d love to find out where it gets staged next.
Why I Liked It
The video and the exhibit was a beautiful, interesting, visually pleasing, and calming experience. I especially liked how it felt fully immersive. I found myself walking around the room to follow the dancers and their guitars as they moved about.
Here’s a picture of me in the gallery during one of my viewings:
Video Tour and Examples
I filmed a few minutes of video walking around the Luhring Augustine gallery in late December 2022. Watch the video on YouTube, or you can click below to see it on this article:
Medium: Six-channel video installation with sound
Length: 29 minutes and 18 seconds
Availability: Edition of 6 plus 2 artist’s proofs
Cast and Performers
Choreographed by Margrét Bjarnadóttir. Music by Bryce Dessner.
These are the names of the Icelandic dancers and musicians featured in the film:
- Adalheidur Halldórsdóttir
- Anais Barthe
- Elin Signy Weywadt Ragnarsdóttir Halla Pórdardóttir
- Heba Eir Kield
- Hiordis Lilia Ornólfsdóttir
- Inga Maren Rúnarsdóttir
- Lovisa Osk Gunnarsdóttir
I took these photos, below, of No Tomorrow installed at the Luhring Augustine gallery on the closing day. It was packed with people! Note in the last two pictures how people are sitting down to relax and enjoy the experience. I liked that energy.
Pictures of six of the dancers from No Tomorrow:
Luhring Augustine posted this copy on their website about No Tomorrow (2022), as of December 2022:
No Tomorrow is a new video installation by Kjartansson, choreographer Margrét Bjarnadóttir, and composer Bryce Dessner. Spanning six screens that encircle the room, the installation surrounds viewers with a performance of spatial music written for eight dancers with eight guitars. Recorded from the center of the performers’ space, the installation is kaleidoscopic, capturing the dancers as they weave within each screen and across the channels; their movements and melodies ranging from pastorale to rock and roll. Combining a variety of classic Western references – blue jeans and white t-shirts, the draped silk curtains of mid-20th century song and dance films, as well as lyrics drawn from the Archaic Greek poet Sappho and adventurer Vivant Denon, two sensualists millennia apart – the work spins notions of idealization and iconography. It is also a reflection on our ideals of beauty, our search for it, and the absurdity of its representations, inspired by the frivolity and reality of Rococo paintings, classical ballet, and modern pop music videos. The performance was initially commissioned for the Iceland Dance Company in 2017, and the new video work features the original cast of performers, all of whom were integral to the development of the work.
Washington Post Review
Sebastian Smee, art critic at the Washington Post, wrote a beautiful profile of the work in this article:
A superstar of contemporary art presents new work in New York. Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s “There Is a Song in My Heart and a Hammer in My Brain” features a gorgeous video installation, somewhat like his famous “The Visitors”
I found several passages interesting. Like this one on the origin of No Tomorrow:
“[Kjartansson] called me,” the choreographer said in a statement released by the gallery, “and asked if I’d have lunch to ‘discuss ballet.’ We met in a restaurant in downtown Reykjavík and, as always, Ragnar was dressed for the occasion, wearing a pink ‘ballet scarf’ (these were his words) around his neck. It was an elegant meeting: we ate deviled eggs, had some wine, and I think Ragnar also ordered a salad because that’s what he imagined ballet people would eat. And he showed me a drawing he’d made of a ballerina with a guitar and asked if I’d be interested in creating this piece with him. I can’t remember if there were really any more meetings to discuss the work.”
And this one on the dancers / singers / performers:
Many of Bjarnadóttir’s dancers had never played the guitar. They had to learn to strum their instruments and, at intervals, sing dreamy melodies, rounded out with harmonies and subtle dynamics, all while performing an elegant sequence of shifting formations.
The article was published in the print edition of the Washington Post. It looks like this on paper:
In 2017, “No Tomorrow” was first shown live in Reykjavik. People loved it. They toured around, it won awards, and then it was produced into this art.
As of 2023, the show has now finished in New York City.
I’ll be on the lookout to see what Ragnar Kjartansson does next.
SOURCES and REFERENCE
- Washington Post feature, by art critic Sebastian Smee
- Ragnar Kjartansson: There is a song in my heart and a hammer in my brain
- De Pont Museum, No Tomorrow
The head curator emailed me to let me know that they had acquired one of the additions of this work! Very cool and I’m curious to see how it will be installed.
Works like this inspire me. I wonder where it will end up. Did someone buy it? Did a copy land at another gallery? Will a museum put it on permanent exhibition? Email me if you know. I’d love to watch it again.