Ragnar Kjartansson

Is beauty a thing in the world?



During a particularly quiet spring, N-o-nS…e;nSI/c::::a_L presented Ragnar Kjartansson with the question “Is beauty a thing in the world?”


No, it does not really exist. It is some kind of a human amplification of nature. Both our sexual nature and the earth as it is. It is man’s experience of things in an artistic and sensual way. It is the essence of all art. We are always reaching for beauty. I don’t know about any artist who is not dealing with beauty. Just in the 20th century, the vocabulary around it changed. We do not discuss it as the meaning of art nowadays like we did in the 19th century. It became such a taboo to say it out loud after the Nazis.

Maybe this is the unfairest question you can ask me, friend. I have not answered it for months. I met an old poet yesterday who told me that beauty is a physiological necessity. I sometimes like more to use the word poetry instead of beauty. Have you tried to google image beauty? I am now working on a series of works dealing with beauty. I get asked if I find it banal, maybe I ask myself the most, but I don’t get why it’s banal. Beauty is a very social thing and critical thinking has been developed around trying to grasp what it is. Ahhh I am drifting elsewhere… somehow this questions constantly slips away from me. Or falls dead in the air.

I have sat with beauty. I have drunk it. I feel it always. I could cry. But this question, it is a hum in my waking moments. I feel so uninspired not being able to answer. I just want to write of breeze through trees and the dreams of a child. I want to write you a Townes Van Zandt mass back over the ocean. This question was hovering above me when working on two huge chunks of beauty in the months since you wrote me. One, a theater piece full of my paintings and my friend’s music. Kjartan, you know. The other, a month long performance where we made an epic film out of World Light. I think the B word was said in every scene. Both works are inspired and based on Iceland’s finest novel World Light by Halldór Laxness. World Light is a novel about the longing for beauty, about the artist. How we become such beings that look at the clouds drifting apart and think that it is all the wealth in the world. No, beauty is not of the real world. It is man’s sense of the world. The longing for something sensual and bigger than ourselves. Beauty and human life are two lovers that can never meet, writes Laxness. But the poet called it a physiological necessity. Then it must be of the world, like atoms.





Nonsensical, 2015
Hlekkur á gagn