Ryan McGinley Makes a Summer Poem for Sigur Ros


Photographer Ryan McGinley has debuted a new video project, VarúÄ?, a short film set to the sounds of Icelandic band Sigur Rós’s song of the same name. In the piece, a woman in a golden wig skips through the streets of New York. The dreamlike scene becomes more surreal as it progresses, as traffic freezes and time seems to stand still.

“I wanted to bring childhood innocence to the streets, through a character whose own light and wonder effects the world around her,” wrote McGinley in a statement accompanying the film. “I’m always interested in an atmosphere where dreams and reality mingle on equal terms.”

McGinley directed VarúÄ? as part of Sigur Rós’s Mystery Film Project. The band gave a dozen filmmakers small budgets—but no specific guidelines—to make videos based on songs from their new album, Valtari. A similar contest is also open to the public, with a $5,000 prize for the winner, to be selected by members of the band.

Sigur Rós is known for its otherworldly sound, unconventional song structure and lead singer Jonsi Birgisson’s tendency to sing what has been called Vonlenska or Hopelandic by critics. Among its previous film projects, the band was featured in Heima, a documentary following its 2006 summer tour of Iceland, and Inni, a live performance film directed by Vincent Morisset and shown at the Venice Film Festival in 2011. However, this is the first time band members have sought to fund artists’ independent projects.

“With the films, we have no idea what the directors are going to come up with. None of them knows what the others are doing, so hopefully it could be interesting,” Sigur Rós said in a statement.

McGinley’s contribution, which he described in an e-mail to A.i.A. as “my little summer poem to New York City,” depicts a city shimmering and glowing in the afternoon sun. Familiar locales such as Chinatown, Columbus Circle and the Highline take on an almost magical quality in the presence of the film’s protagonist, whose hair literally sparkles as she makes her way through the city streets before seemingly melting into thin air at the film’s conclusion.

The Mystery Film Project attracted mainstream media attention when Alma Har’el featured actor Shia LaBouef naked in her video Fjöger Píanó. Other contributors to the series include Ramin Bahrani, director of Ég anda, and John Cameron Mitchell, whose video has not yet debuted. VarúÄ? and the other films, six of which have been released so far, can be viewed on the Sigur Rós website. There are eight more videos (one of the 12 filmmakers, Inga Birgisdóttir, is directing two), set to premier before the project ends in mid-November, including the contest winner.