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Ragnar Kjartansson performed God at the Mayakovsky Theatre in Moscow last night © The Art Newspaper/Gareth Harris

Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson will re-create the 1980s US soap opera Santa Barbara for a new video piece due to be shown throughout GES-2, the vast new culture complex launching in the centre of Moscow next September. Kjartansson will shoot individual episodes with Russian actors in his studio in Iceland over the next year where he will create sets faithful to the TV show and perform the original scripts. A vast film set within GES-2 will also be used to re-enact certain episodes.

The official state network RTR started showing Santa Barbara, which focuses on the Capwell family in California, in 1992. “It was the first American soap to be shown in Russia. Russians were reading poetry to each other and then suddenly Santa Barbara arrived and everything changed. Its an emotional mass, a sculpture. Were constantly acting out scenes with people saying things like You have betrayed me!”, Kjartansson says.

A curatorial statement from the V-A-C Foundation, the organisation behind GES-2, says: “This is a love [from the Russian public] that demonstrates how the powerful mechanisms of drama—the same that the artist manipulates in his work—can affect reality, how fiction and art can affect the world.” V-A-C has given Kjartansson the entire run of the space and the “power to intervene on every level so he can create temporarily the institution of his dreams”.

Kjartansson performed God last night at the Mayakovsky Theatre in Moscow, a six-hour durational piece during which the artist continually chants “Sorrow conquers Happiness” in Russian. He performed the work previously in St Petersburg during the Manifesta 10 biennial in 2014. “We were going to call the piece God in Russian but that would have been controversial. With all my pieces, I would never do them if I understood them,” he says.

In 2016, he told the New Yorker: “Those words [Sorrow conquers happiness] sound so magnificent in Russian. And its how you feel in Russia now, where there is so much hopelessness.”He tells us that “at Manifesta, it was a shocking time during the anti-LGBT period [in 2013, the Russian government enacted a federal law prohibiting “gay propaganda”]. It has scarily become the norm not just here but all over. Perhaps the hopelessness has been exported [to the UK, for instance]. There is never complete hopelessness though.Read More – Source