Ragnar Kjartansson b. 1976
Satan Is Real (2005)
For “Satan Is Real,” Kjartansson buried himself waist-deep and shirtless in the earth in a public park in Reykjavik, strummed a guitar, and sang “Satan is real, and he’s working for me” over and over for more than an hour. In the video, children frolic and even picnic around him.
The scene recalls Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days,” although Kjartansson’s brooding lyrics distinguish him from the Pollyanna character half-buried in that play. The words come from the artist’s mishearing of the Louvin Brothers’s gospel song, which isn’t quite as bleak: “Satan is real, and he’s working in spirit. . . . He can tempt you and lead you astray.”