Since its creation in 1895, the Venice Biennale has always functioned as a kind of art Olympiad, with nations proudly showcasing their best artists in ostentatious pavilions.
So after Mr. Kjartansson (his name is pronounced RAG-ner kuh-YART-un-sun) was chosen to represent Iceland last year, he said, he first had to figure out what it would mean, exactly, to be the artistic exemplar of a now near-bankrupt country, one of the hardest hit by the financial crisis. And also what the Biennale itself would represent this year, in its first incarnation since all the air escaped from the great art bubble of the past decade.
His idea, at an event where art installations can sometimes be large enough to arrive on cargo ships, was to make a project rigorously stripped of the extraneous and the expensive: just himself, some cheap art materials and a subject. The only luxury would be time, which in this case might be viewed instead as penance.
“I just had this image of this guy, smoking, drinking, by the water, looking out at the Prosecco Venetian light,” Mr. Kjartansson said. “I thought of him as this man without fate — which is all what we’re living back home, in a way.”
Titled “The End,” the performance grows out of much recent work by Mr. Kjartansson, 33, a darkly funny provocateur whose profile has been rising in the art world. (He is represented by the prominent Chelsea gallery Luhring Augustine; Daniel Birnbaum, the curator of this year’s Biennale, chose him to participate in another large international exhibition he oversaw last year in Turin.)
Over and Over: Art That Never Stops (New York Times)