Anri Sala

Artvehicle 27/Review

9th November 2007 — 22nd December 2007

It all starts with a fine noise, a melody at the gallery's threshold; across the mezzanine and all the way down to the crypt. This subtle song reappears in the form of a drum kit, with a couple of headphones and mics to one side and recording equipment to the other, all facing a drum screen. 'This is Ulysses', Anri Sala's latest work in collaboration with Jeremy Millar, takes its title from the yet un-released song by the Glaswegian band Franz Ferdinand. Anyone willing to do so, can recreate a version of the unheard song, just get hold of the sticks and bang the drums and cymbals following the instructions pinned in front of them on the screen. Even with the headphones on, though, you may still find it difficult to follow the band's riffs and lyrics, as the instructions given are not chords, but just words, and it goes like this: bootless, boot, boot, bootless, lickitup, window sash, clash. Given the title of the song, Sala and Millar devised that all the words and phrases used as descriptions and instructions for the music should be taken from Joyce's 1922 novel. Indeed, nothing better than Joyce's alliterations and onomatopoeias to describe the beat of the drum. Although when I had a go, it was closer to the New York Dolls high on coke, than the rhythmical compositions drawn from Joyce's particular use of language and narration.

Back to the mezzanine, Sala imposes his own narrative, one that cannot be skipped and which has to be followed cautiously not to miss anything. Waiting right in the middle of the room for the gifts of sound and vision, two screens emerge from the deep darkness of the gallery, while on the far end of the room an orchestra awaits its turn to play. On one side, 'Air Cushioned Ride' starts playing, with the camera positioned inside a car, the image drives us around a row of parked trucks somewhere in Arizona while listening to the radio. At first, it looks like a scene taken from 'Vanishing Point'; crazy Kowalsky with his hands upon the wheel, full of amphetamines driving madly around this parking area, the radio jumping from one station to another, waiting for Super Soul to come up with some of his philosophical guff. Instead, we can only listen to some baroque chamber music, which keeps clashing and interfering with a country song. The film finishes after a few minutes without reaching any climax or conclusion, and our attention is immediately driven to the opposite wall, where 'A Spurious Emission' commences. For this film, Sala commissioned a composer to transcribe the clashing songs to a musical score. On screen, the most peculiar orchestra starts playing the now familiar melody: half baroque chamber music, with a gamba, a cembalo and a viola; and half country music with the lead guitar, bass, piano, and drums. Finally, and only for the opening night, 'A Spurious Emission' for baroque trio and country band (2007) was interpreted by the same orchestra in the gallery.

Looking up to the upper mezzanine walls 'After Three Minutes', a double video projection, starts playing. This work has no sound and it represents Sala's previous work, 'Three Minutes', a close up of a cymbal filmed under strobe lighting slowly as it loses its shape to the blinding effect. Minimalist in its form and highly aestheticized this work is reminacent of 'Blindfold' (2002), in which an empty billboard is recorded under the effect of the sunset light. Alongside, a projection of the same work filmed by a CCTV camera when it was exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, slows down the rhythm of the film to only two stills per second, decreasing the quality of the image and transforming the brightness of the original to a blurred grey paste in which the blinking effect of the intense strobe lighting is completely lost.

All the works in 'A Second Look' have been arranged as in a perfect score, following a synchronised cadence they play one after another in an extended loop. Immersed in the bare style that characterizes Sala's projections, the spectator holds on to a narrative full of suspense that cannot be resolved until the last frame is seen or the last chord is heard. As in previous works, such as Lákkat (2004) or Mixed Behaviour (2003) sound is given an illustrative role, gaining both weight and evocative power, capable of transforming non-events into more complex narratives in which it acquires different forms and meanings. In Sala's latest works, it takes over the image and becomes form, shaped by images, words and performance; something we can look at, touch and manipulate, an autonomous language full of visual and acoustic appearances that slowly imposes its own beat.


Hauser & Wirth
196a Piccadilly
London W1J 9DY

Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-6pm

Anri Sala —