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PLAY THE WIND
Lehmann maupin gallery
sep 5 - Oct 26, 2019
Well established for her genre-defying approach to image making that timelessly combines eras, cultural references, and personal experiences, the photographs and the film debuted in this exhibition are a fresh reflection on Prager’s place of origin, site of inspiration, and frequent character—the city of Los Angeles
In Prager’s newest film, Play the Wind, we are led on a journey throughout Los Angeles with our protagonists Dimitri Chamblas (dean of the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts) and Riley Keough (American Honey and The Girlfriend Experience). Depicted from the vantage point of driving in the city, Prager cultivates a surreal sentiment of passing moments that feel like a fabricated memory or a dream. She utilizes this sensation of motion throughout the film as a narrative device, with her command of film directing, honed over eight films including the Emmy Award winning Touch of Evil (2011), now contributing a new sense of movement also evident in the accompanying still photographs. She anchors her characteristically elaborate fictional scenes within the real Los Angeles, shooting for the first time in many years primarily on location rather than in the studio—a decision that harkens back to when Prager began her career over a decade ago. Though the images contain large constructed set pieces and are populated with carefully cast extras (numbering up to 300), the presence of the Los Angeles streets infuses an element of urban lifeblood that is palpable in the work. Prager’s perception of Los Angeles is one of the artifice and drama befitting Hollywood, with real world chaos that overflows into sci-fi dystopia and post-apocalyptic dread. She toys with these visions of the city disseminated on film, TV, and within the popular imagination, which inform our characterization of a place as much as our own memories.
The Visitors named“Best Artwork of the 21st Century” by The Guardian
Filmed at Rokeby Farm, a grand dilapidated house once owned by the Astor family in upstate New York, The Visitors is a nine-channel video in which the Icelandic artist and his friends, including members of Sigur Rós, sing and play a song whose lyrics were written by Kjartansson’s ex-wife, Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir. Ragnar understood her lyrics as a commentary on what he calls the “common defeat” of their marriage. The music was co-written by Kjartansson and his frequent collaborator Davíð Þór Jónsson.
The artist’s friends play different parts of the same song, which repeats over and over, for more than an hour. A pair of twins play concertina and cello in different rooms – all the musicians were audible to one another through headphones. There are two pianists, a guitarist, drums. The Visitors is a live performance, each musician visible on a different screen. Outside, there is a party on the porch, where the house’s current occupants take in the early evening. Captured in real time, one evening at sunset, the music builds and dies and builds again. The song repeats and develops, reaches false crescendos and plateaus. Ragnar, in the bath, is nearly submerged in soap bubbles as he sings, “Once again I’m falling into my feminine ways.” “There are stars exploding around you / And there is nothing / Nothing you can do,” goes another refrain, in this idyllic crumbling retreat. You get sucked in.
You feel like a guest yourself in this marvellous, immersive multiscreen film. The more often I see it, the more I come to inhabit its rooms. Why is it so compelling and, with its repetitions, so watchable multiple times? The fragility of friendship and love, communality and miscommunication all have a part here.
The title of the work is taken from Abba’s final album, when the band were falling apart. The film’s absurdities and longeurs, the light, and the concentration of all the performers and the repetition of the song is utterly compelling and hypnotic. Youthfulness and idealism feel like a fading dream in the evening’s light. The Visitors is a kind of extended farewell to romanticism, to which Ragnar is both drawn and deeply suspicious of. Writing this, I want to see The Visitors again, immediately. AS
Read more here.