If you haven’t managed to make it to The Broad yet, do yourself a favor and get in line before Monday. After May 1, the inaugural installation, which has been on display since the museum opened last September, will close to make way for a new exhibit, and while there are too many impressive works to name—Kara Walker’s African’t, Cy Twombly’s The Rose (V), and Mark Bradford’s Corner of Desire and Piety among them—you cannot miss out on the experience of Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors.
In 2012, Iceland musician Kjartansson assembled friends in a decaying mansion on the Rokeby farm in upstate New York to perform a song together—or rather, a series of melodies, mostly in service of this cryptic lyric: “Once again / I fall into / my feminine ways.” Each member of this unofficial group occupies a different room: A woman in a white nightgown keens over an accordion in a parlor by the backyard while upstairs a handsome guitarist strums away as his girlfriend sleeps naked on the sleigh bed behind him. The artist himself sings and plays acoustic guitar in a claw-foot bathtub.
The resulting 64-minute video installation, projected on nine different screens that conjure the spaciousness of the rundown house, is overwhelming. Standing in the room before any one of them, you feel as though you’re catching the musician in the midst of a private, mournful requiem. Move to the center, and each harmony swells in unison as though offering consolation. Eventually, the mood turns celebratory as the headphones are dropped and the song continues a cappella, with each person exiting his or her space and entering the frame of another’s, creating the surreal sensation that this moment is unfolding all around you. Even though The Visitors plays on a loop throughout the day, you leave with the feeling that it was somehow fleeting, and thus all the more special.
The Broad is free, but has been so overwhelmed with ticket requests, which allocate visitors a particular time slot, that the only way to get in is to join the queue in front, and on weekends it can take over an hour to get in. The good news? This Saturday at noon, the museum will release more tickets for upcoming exhibitions. In the meantime, The Visitors is well worth the wait.