03 December 2008 - 21 March 2009
|© Anri Sala, No barragan no cry, 2002|
color photograph, Ed. of 5 +2AP, 63x78cm
Courtesy: Marian Goodman Gallery, New York; Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris; Hauser and Wirth, Zurich, London.
Purchase Not By Moonlight
3 December 2008 – 21 March 2009
The first major museum exhibition by Albanian artist Anri Sala features films from the late 1990s to the present along with photographs and sculptures that explore a dialogue about the interplay of the works with space and time. Co-organized by the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC), Cincinnati and Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, Sala’s work is presented as one exhibition with two parts designed to resonate with each museum’s respective space.
Issues of rupture are addressed in the exhibition. Sala’s films play on a timer and the exhibition lighting corresponds to the same program. Sala has created an environment in which the visitor’s focus is directed toward specific films that engage in dialogue with each other, with the space, and experience of the viewer. Included are several drums especially fabricated for the exhibition. Synched with particular films, the drumsticks respond to the low-frequency rhythm of the films’ soundtracks, a furtive, yet direct connection between musical instruments and the sound component of a particular narrative. As some films end, they completely disappear and different films in other areas of the museum begin. The orientation of the installation is constantly changing, causing viewers to reorient themselves within the space.
Sala includes several drums fabricated especially for the exhibition. Synched with particular films, the drumsticks respond to the low-frequency rhythm of the films’ soundtracks, a furtive yet direct connection between musical instruments and the sound component of a particular narrative.
Sala belongs to the last generation of artists to come of age under Albania’s strict communist regime, which demanded absolute conformity to Social Realism. By the time he entered the Art Academy, communism had collapsed, and he and other artists reflected on the changes that transpired in the country almost overnight, while also catching up with the international art world. His early works explored the ideological discussions that preoccupied his country and the role art can play in engineering social change. This led to his more recent work that explores the way light, sound, and images can create a social space that mobilizes viewers and heightens their sensitivity to their environment.
The films Air Cushioned Ride (2006), A Spurious Emission (2007), Long Sorrow (2005), and Answer Me (2008)explore Sala’s interest in films that create their own soundtracks as well as disconnect. Air Cushioned Ride is set in a parking lot of trucks under a bright blue sky. As a camera situated in a moving car travels around the parked trucks, the music broadcast on the car’s radio music alternates between country and classic chamber music. This vacillating of musical genres is created by the effect of the size and placement of the trucks on local radio signals. Air Cushioned Ride’s companion piece, A Spurious Emission, was created through the transcription of Air Cushioned Ride’s soundtrack into a musical score, performed by an orchestra composed of both baroque and country musicians.
Long Sorrow begins with an unknown, seemingly discarded object in the window of an empty apartment. Improvisational jazz constitutes the aural backdrop of the film that slowly zooms in on this forgotten object over the distance of the living space. As the camera moves in, it becomes clear that the “object” is in fact a person playing this music, perched outside the window, high above the ground. The film explores sound at the moment it is created, focusing on the musician’s mouth and eyes rather than the instrument. The sound exists as an extension of the architecture, taking on a physical presence.
Sala filmed the exhibition’s most recent work Answer Me in the Buckminster Fuller-created dome of a former surveillance tower between East and West Berlin. We see a man playing a drum set oriented toward the dome’s curved wall and a woman in front of an opening that overlooks a forest. Next to her are a single drum and drumsticks. She is trying to communicate her perceived breakdown of their relationship and the need to separate. She urges him to respond: “Answer me!” But he can’t hear her voice because he’s preoccupied with playing the drums. Even when he stops, the echo of his drums travels through the curveliniar space and animate the single drum next to the woman, jeopardizing the slightest possibility to ever receive her urgent words.
Time After Time (2003) explores ideas of disconnect as it shows a lone, emaciated horse on a highway. Often appearing as an absence rather than a presence in the film due to its being backlit, the horse slowly comes in and out of focus and then is suddenly illuminated by oncoming traffic. Whenever a car passes, the horse lifts its back leg. There is no provided reason of the horse’s location, only speculation.
Anri Sala was born in Tirana, Albania in 1974. He lives and works in Berlin.
Anri Sala: Purchase Not By Moonlight is sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and is part of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Knight Exhibition Series. Additional support provided by Starbucks Coffee Company, Jawbone and Monica Kalpakian.
Curated by Raphaela Platow, CAC’s Alice & Harris Weston Director and Chief Curator, the exhibition will be on view at the CAC from May 30 through September 6, 2009.