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Anri Sala, Ravel Ravel, 2013, still.
Anri Sala, Long Sorrow, 2005, still.
Made up of three floors at the New Museum, Anri Sala’s
most comprehensive exhibition in the United States to date,
Answer Me, is a sound, video, photography installation
of a post-communist Albania. Rendering a space for sonic and
visual communication, Sala guides us through present-day
tensions that haunt a developing country.
Sala is an Albanian video artist, with an
impressive track record behind him. He graduated from the
École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs - and decided
early on to work with video. This bold choice, from an Albanian
artist with BA in Painting from Tirana, led him to the Hugo Boss
Prize nomination in 2002. He lives and works in Berlin and
represented by the giant Hauser and Wirth gallery.
In the center of the retrospective, located on the 2nd floor,
Dammi I Colori (2003), is the only piece that includes verbal
communication. Sala narrates the film and accounts the paradoxical
situation of Albania in regards to its progression in architectural
development. In the film, Sala shows the facades of buildings with
vibrant colors painted geometrically. He attributes such
characteristics as a process of revitalization. Yet, the project
only confronts the aesthetics of a decaying space, failing to
meet the psychic and emotional extent of those who inhabit
the buildings. In this sense, Sala believes Albania is a utopia
in the making with an underlying sense of deceit.
When the limitations of semiotic representations are met, sound
has the visceral ability to provoke erased histories and inform
lived realities. This is particularity true in the piece Ravel
Ravel (2013) where Sala recreates two performances of Maurice
Ravel’s “Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D-major” (1929–30).
In a semi-anechoic chamber, the installation is made up of two
videos of Ravel’s piece. While the re-performance itself is
remarkable, the sensation captures a tension of potential and
failure. Sala pairs the videos in such a way that the overall
composition is organized both harmonically and contrapuntally
i.e. when music is intentionally out of sync. Much like a
conversation, the two videos interact and generate an echo effect.
Sala creates counternarratives using space, sound, and video. He
challenges the representative realities by rendering visible
unresolved tension that lurks within the newly painted walls of
Albania. Answer Me is a space where noise is valuable and verbal
communication is deemed degenerate.