Media @ McGill

"Anri Sala: Answer Me" at the New Museum, New York, NY

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Isabelle Lynch

 

I traveled to New York City to see a major exhibition of contemporary artist Anri Sala’s multichannel video and sound installations. My masters thesis, titled A Double Entendre: Seeing and Hearing Together in Anri Sala's Ravel Ravel Unravel, investigates the relation between sound and image in Anri Sala’s work. The exhibition, Anri Sala: Answer Me, was on view at the New Museum in New York City and marked the most comprehensive survey of the artist’s work in the United States and Canada. The exhibition featured multichannel audio and video installations that innovatively engaged with the architecture of the museum. I had the opportunity to see and hear the works that are the subject of my thesis including Ravel Ravel (2013), Unravel (2013), Long Sorrow (2005), Answer Me (2008), Le Clash (2010), and Tlatelolco Clash (2011) and new spatializations of The Present Moment (in B-flat) (2014) and The Present Moment (in D) (2014). I am very grateful to Media@McGill for their support and for allowing me to see and hear Sala’s works and study the relationship between sound and image.

My travel to New York allowed me to research Anri Sala’s innovative approaches to media, specifically sound. My research project focuses on artistic production that emerges through the use of new media and investigates the ways in which audiovisual engagement with video art that addresses the relationship between visuality and aurality (moving image and sound) invite a reconsideration of our perception of time and space. My Masters thesis investigates how Albanian artist Anri Sala’s Ravel Ravel Unravel (2013) proposes new ways of looking and listening together. Presented by the French Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013, the installation is composed of two works: Ravel Ravel and Unravel. On two large screens apposed to the wall, one on top of the other, but slightly out of synch, Ravel Ravel is composed of two projected films, each presenting images of the left hand of a pianist playing Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major (1930). Sala's work presents two co-existing presents: while the hands of virtuoso pianists Louis Lortie and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet are filmed identically, the notes they play come in and out of synch. By covering the walls and ceilings of the space with sound-absorbing material and attenuating reverberation, Sala silences the pavilion's central room and produces a perception of space based solely on temporal discrepancies. The suspension of spatial awareness in Ravel Ravel engenders an experience of space that is dependent on temporal variations. The doubled performances and the co-existence of different tempos offer a reconsideration of the temporal present and invite a reflection on the nature of sameness and difference and the possibility of reconciling difference.

During my time in New York, I also had the opportunity other exhibitions including Laura Poitras: Astro Noise at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Vigée Lebrun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Munch and Expressionism at the Neue Galerie, Taryn Simon at Gagosian Gallery and Eva Kot'átková : Error at the ISCP.