A Recursive Environment: Ragnar Kjartansson: Me and My Mother (2015)

I encountered the most recent version of Kjartansson’s Me and My Mother in the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark (the project began in 2000 and is repeated every five years). The film consists of the artist and his mother standing in what seems to be a library, dressed formally. Every few seconds the mother would turn to the son and spit on him, before resuming the awkward waiting. The film was projected on a screen above a staircase and I sat on the steps watching and waiting for something to happen. Why did the women resent the young man so much? Why did she keep spitting on him? What were they waiting for? After about twenty minutes I began to notice that it was a looped film and that whatever they were waiting for was not going to happen anytime soon.


Kjartsson, R. (2015). Me and My Mother,


The question of whether this constitutes an assemblage can be seen in the use of repetition: the woman always spat on the son, but obviously this was slightly different each time (Casetti, 2015). It appeared as part of a larger narrative but the film denied the further development: in the film itself there was no sense of the relationship between the two. It undermined expectations of narrative by creating the sense of waiting but with no resolution and in this sense, was recursive (Ernst, 2006). There was sound but no music and nothing was said. It was significant that this was projected above a staircase, a point through which people were moving between rooms of the gallery, and this created a juxtaposition between the sense in which we should stop to view it (Ernst, 2006) Even if we did, there were constant interruptions by passing people. This film therefore took the notion of cinematic space and subverted it through the placement of the film, the behaviour of the spectators, and the recursive nature of the film itself.

– Ziyi Wang




  • Channel, L. (2016). Ragnar Kjartsson and Mother on ‘Me and My Mother’. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/louisiana-channel/ragnar-kjartansson–mothe_b_11064740.html [Accessed 20th March, 2017].
  • Casetti, F. (2105). Assemblage. In: The Lumière Galaxy: Seven Key Words for the Cinema to Come, New York: Columbia University Press, pp.60-82
  • Ernst, W. (2006). Dis/Continuities: Does the Archive become Metaphorical in Multi-Media Space? In W. Chun and T. Keenan (eds.) New Media, Old Media, New York: Routledge, pp.105-124.

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