(Tomkins’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 4/11.)
“Bonjour,” a live theatre piece conceived, designed, and directed by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, premièred last October at the Palais de Tokyo, in Paris. The story line is brief. A young woman wakes up in her second-floor bedroom, above a café in a picturesque French village. She gets dressed, puts a record on the old-fashioned phonograph (it’s Charles Trenet, singing “La Mer”), brushes her hair, and pulls on stockings. Simultaneously, a young man on the ground floor of the house next door has been making coffee and glancing at a 1958 copy of Paris Match. The man goes outside to smoke a cigarette. Moments later, the woman comes down the staircase on the outside of her house, carrying a vase of flowers. She walks to the public fountain in the space between the two houses, sees the man, and hesitates. He says, “Bonjour.” She replies, “Bonjour.” He watches her fill the vase at the fountain, turn, and walk back up the stairs. Just before she goes inside, their eyes meet again. He goes back into his house. After a brief pause, the five-minute sequence starts again. It repeats continuously, with different actors, working in shifts, for twelve hours a day.