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“When you are here with me, this room doesn’t have walls anymore but trees, infinite trees. When you are here near me, this ceiling breaks no, it doesn’t exist anymore. I see the sky above us, and we remain here, abandoned as if there is nothing else, nothing else in the world. A harmonica is playing, it seems to me an organ that vibrates, for you and for me, in the immensity of the sky”. 

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These the words of one of the most known Italian songs, written by songwriter Gino Paoli. “Il Cielo in una stanza/A Sky in a Room” is an iconic tune from 1960 that have a deep, romantic and nostalgic meaning for Italians. The song that my mom, for instance, used to sing me to sleep when I was just a baby. A song that Ragnar Kjartansson choose to develop his artistic research through his imaginary, imagination and visual impact, so to become a fundamental part of his new work dedicated to Milano and curated by Massimiliano Gioni for Fondazione Nicola Trussardi. 

 

The Sky in a Room, Ragnar Kjartansson, courtesy Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Milano.

 

During the Italian lockdown, from his home in Reykjavík, Kjartanssonwas interviewed via a Instagram live by Gamec Museum and, at the end of the conversation, he grabbed his guitar and start singing “Quando sei qui con me questa stanza non ha più pareti, ma alberi…”: “The Sky in a Room”. A week ago, these simple but suggestive words started to be spread around a small and precious venue in Milano, in Porta Venezia neighborhood, at Church of San Carlo al Lazzaretto (known as “il San Carlino” by Milanese people). Having been closed to the public for a long period, this place, an octagonal church restored from 2015 to 2017, is a symbolic memorial of the big plague that spread in 1576 in the European city. A place where people used to go so to find some peace and that became a trace of Italian history also thanks to Alessandro Manzoni’s “The Betrothed” novel. 

As Ragnar Kjartansson said about this poetic project “Il cielo in una stanza is the only song I know that deals with the fundamental nature of visual art, which is its ability to transform space”, and so does this performance. Indeed, hosting 6 different singers performing non-stop from 2 to 8 pm, 7/7 per a month and playing this song by an organ, they really transform the place. 

The Visitors - to quote an epic work by the Icelandic artist that was displayed at Hangar Bicocca, Milan, in 2013 - enter the church, few at the time, they sit on a pew and they listen to this romantic litany, as in a melancholy ritual. The beginning of the song could also resemble a Church tune, as “Te Deum”, but then, while you keep listening to it, the romanticism of a strong love emerges, and the idealistic transformation of a place becomes clear into the audience minds. Suggestion arises and grew inside the church thanks to the repetition of the singing and movement, its poetry and mystery. 

 

The Sky in a Room, Ragnar Kjartansson portrait, Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Milano.

 

Cover image: The Sky in a Room, Ragnar Kjartansson, performer, courtesy Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Milano.

Written by Rossella Farinotti

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.

 

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