Magazine article Artforum International

Anri Sala: New Museum

Magazine article Artforum International

Anri Sala: New Museum

Article excerpt

Anri Sala

NEW MUSEUM

Occupying three floors of the New Museum, and fully energizing exhibition spaces that can ordinarily feel disproportionate, "Anri Sala: Answer Me" traced the reorientations within the Albanian-born video artist's practice. The survey, which was organized by Massimiliano Gioni, Margot Norton, and Natalie Bell, was dominated by work from the past decade, when Sala's ongoing ruminations on past versus present--initially expressed in a more-or-less straightforward documentary form--moved toward more elliptical studies of sited music renditions.

The large-scale installations reorganized early-twentieth-century classical-music compositions from a contemporary perspective. Ravel Ravel, 2013, a double-screen video, shows the tightly framed left hands of two pianists playing Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major (1929-30), a piece commissioned by pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm fighting in World War I. Sala made variations in the score's tempo markings to generate occasional lags between the two performances, creating short delays and realignments reminiscent of Steve Reich's phase pieces; he also transformed the viewing room into a towering semi-anechoic chamber, buffering its high walls with dark foam wedges to eliminate natural echo. Down the hall, the accompanying Unravel, 2013, shot in the German pavilion of the 2013 Venice Biennale, found a DJ attempting to "correct" the imposed phase differences by manipulating two albums of the same performances on two turntables, her hand movements taking on an otherworldly quality through deft close-ups.

Sala's alterations of written music are even more drastic in The Present Moment, 2014. He isolated notes from Arnold Schonberg's Verklarte Nacht (Transfigured Night, 1899), reshuffled them according to the Austrian composer's twelve-tone system (which this late-Romantic-era piece predates), and played the notes individually through separate speakers in the gallery space, arranged so that it sounds as if each tone is darting laterally overhead across the room. A pair of videos, The Present Moment (in D) and The Present Moment (in B-flat), both 2014, present a string sextet doggedly bowing only the D and B-flat notes in the score--another Minimalist gesture. …

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