Staging Reality

Ragnar Kjartansson Death is Elsewhere

Before Ragnar Kjartansson became an artist exhibiting around the world, he was one of Iceland’s best-known musicians, most notably playing in electronic punk-pop band Trabant in the early 2000s. His music career has since been almost completely eclipsed by his career as a visual artist, with shows at the Venice Biennale, the Barbican Centre, and the Tate Modern. His most recent work, Death is Elsewhere, just premiered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. All this makes him a frightening figure to mull over – but when I meet him in person at his colourful central Reykjavík apartment, Kjartan is welcoming, cheerful, and effervescent. It also helps that our interview is repeatedly interrupted by his attempts to keep his one-year-old from crying or sticking her finger into electrical sockets. Ragnar himself is hardly seeking recognition. In fact, he says that he appreciates that in Iceland, artists are treated just like everyone else.

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Björk’s Swan Dress Part of Met Museum’s Camp Exhibition

The famous “swan dress” that Björk wore to the 2001 Academy Awards is included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Camp: Notes on Fashion” exhibition, which will open on Thursday, following the New York institution’s annual Met Gala, often referred to as “the Oscars of Fashion.” RÚV reports that the famous frock will be exhibited alongside such iconic garments as the oyster dress that rapper Cardi B wore to the Grammy’s this year, Burberry’s rainbow cloak, and Balenciaga’s platform take on the Crocs clog, among others.

Björk wore the swan dress to the 2001 Academy Awards. That year, her song “I’ve Seen It All” from Lars von Trier’s film “Dancer in the Dark” was nominated for Best Original Song. Björk, who starred in the film, co-wrote the song with Icelandic author Sjón and recorded it with Radiohead singer Thom Yorke.

The swan dress was created by Macedonian fashion designer Marjan Pejoski. At the time, it was widely mocked. Journalist Jay Carr of The Boston Globe memorably remarked, for instance, that the “wraparound swan frock…made her look like a refugee from the more dog-eared precincts of provincial ballet.” It’s stood the test of time, however: Valentino debuted its own version of the dress as part of its Spring 2014 couture collection.

The theme of this year’s Met Gala and the related exhibit takes its inspiration from Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp.” The exhibition will be open to the public from May 9 to September 8 in New York City.