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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.

























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Tiffany Liu, April 2016, NYC.
All images are taken by Tiffany Liu at the exhibition venue. Copyright Global Art Daily, 2016.