Anri Sala’s outstanding moments

Anri Sala, at Borsa de Commerce, October 3.

Albanian, French, English, German…Anri Sala is fluent in all these languages. Speaking very accurately about his work as a visual artist, he builds his speech nicely, willingly evoking his videos that are circulating around the world. But he does not trust his words, all the words: he knows that language always takes us somewhere else. He is here and now he wants to be, here and now he wants to push us.

For more than twenty years, the 48-year-old artist has been inviting visitors to his galleries to share timeless moments. “Experience is fundamental to my work, He insists a few days before the opening of his exhibition at the Trade Exchange. I try to play in the presence of those watching, with their own choreography between acts, to sharpen a sense of the moment. » Everything that screens make us ignore, they bring us back intensely. And what better tool than music to achieve this? It haunts and structures all of his work. Movies and combinations? It is preferable to define it as “Abstract Novels”, where the music “Replace the verb, because it is closer to the soul”.

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Growing up under the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, son of Tirana, the Albanian capital, he soon realized that words would not be enough for him. In the “hell” of the country’s National Library, run by his mother, he discovers forbidden books: Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky … The horizon of abstraction, forbidden in communist countries, opens before him. One painting particularly distinguishes him: Portrait of the British poet Edward James by Magritte (reproduction is prohibited, 1937). A man from behind looks at himself in the mirror, and the reflection of his image is sent back, as seen from behind. It excites him and opens the abyss.

‘tongue opacity’

Andri Sala began painting from the age of ten, studying at the Secondary Technical School in Tirana, and then at the Academy of Arts, where he entered in 1992. He was already interested in animate pictures. But in Albania, video art does not exist. Hard to find a camera! Al fresco works as an alternative. Recently, he explained to students at the Paris-Cergy School of Art: When the communist regime fell, one of the first things I wanted to give up and expel was the language that emanated from my body. It is for this reason that I mainly worked on frescoes. It leaves no room for gesture rashness and allows you to focus on composition and the relationship to time. The video arrived in the continuity of this work. »

His arrival in France in 1996 finally gave him the means to dedicate himself to it. Once he entered Arts Déco in Paris, he made his first video, Intervista, after two years. It’s a click. After setting out in search of the missing soundtrack to an interview given by his mother, then a young communist, he asks a hearing impaired person to do so. ” Restores “ His words read lips. His film shows his mother’s confrontation with her speech from another time, and gives the son a glimpse into a hidden past. Then I understood the ambiguity of language, and how syntax bends wills. This first movie put me on alert, ” He remembers. His teachers prompted him to continue his studies at Le Fresnoy’s studio in Tourcoing, and he immediately broke into the art world. In 2001, he won the Special Prize for Young Artist at the Venice Biennale. Her talent was discovered by the Parisian gallery Chantal Crossel. Twenty years later, they remain loyal to each other.

“Music is the only medium capable of confusing our minds by making them, for a few seconds, unable to distinguish between past, present and future.”

Little by little, the music in his works escalates. He chose her as a music lover, with eight years of studying violin, but above all in an intuitive way. From the Pompidou Center to the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, he gradually became a leader of his images. The flight of the singers provokes the ranks of the theater hall, who in the ear of the spectator sing melodies. Butterfly Lady by Puccini. The organist sends the drum to play the punk clash anthem, Should I stay or should I leave, In the area of ​​HLM, in Bordeaux.

For the Venice Biennale, representing France in 2013, he divided, reconfigured and installed Left hand concerto (1930), by Ravel. Every time he has to do“Print the form in a certain period”, Quote from Milan Kundera slow. “In my work, music plays more of a role in syntax and structure than in content. It is a way to stretch that feeling of the present moment to the fullest extent, Analyse. It is the only means capable of confusing our minds by making them, for a few seconds, unable to distinguish between past, present and future. Language cannot lose us at a time like this. »

political echo

To sharpen our sense, our sense of the moment: Its ambition takes a thousand faces. From the most modest, like this little boy’s music box, leaning against a window that seems to distort his breath, to the most intricate, like this film produced entirely in the computer-generated images he shows at Bourse de commerce. But, unlike many plastic artists, such as Philip Barrino or Steve McQueen, indoor cinema does not tempt him: “It makes us forget that we are where we are now.”

Above all, Emma Lavigne, Director of Pinault Group emphasizes, “André Sala resonates with music and its political dimensions. He engages art and music in a mode of resistance through this installation, and is a seismographer to map the world traversed by the harmonies and contradictions that accompany past and contemporary political upheavals.” This sometimes seems muted, especially in a file Ravel Ravel revealed Rifle: Through this concerto a hand composed for a former soldier who lost his left arm in combat, as evokes “The effort the body makes to deal with this missing limb” And the “A way, of course, to talk also about society, about war”.

Henri Sala, at Bourse de Commerce, Paris.

Other times it explodes into a symphony, as in his masterpiece, 1395 days without red (2011), also listed on the stock exchange. One thousand three hundred and ninety-five days is the duration of the siege of Sarajevo, in which the film was shot. It sums it up ‘Uncertain flight’ To a musician in a city attacked by snipers: “For her, the hum becomes a precious diversion from her immediate surroundings. At every intersection, danger explodes into a hum and the orchestra helps him re-adapt to the rhythm of the symphony. It is music’s relationship to danger: to arrive or not to arrive in time is a musical question, but for her it is also a matter of Life or death. In this film, where the indescribable is the only expression, language is replaced by music.” His collaboration with Ari Benjamin Myers, musician and conductor, is essential in this regard: The process was like writing dialogue for a movie without words. »

sax ghost

Architecture is his other favorite tool. Anri Sala plays it just like others play the cello, bringing her works in jitters as we perceive the space. Thanks to the massive central rotunda, the Bourse de commerce allows him to replay his last film up to the shift, in the style of the curve. Already shown in an old cistern in Houston in 2020, it’s shown here on a huge screen that embraces and emphasizes the roundness of the space with its 55-meter-wide.

We would like to see this work “Like a meteorite that pierced the dome and fell into the rotunda, turning it into a kind of cenote in the Yucatan”. he claims It’s no longer time : Time doesn’t exist anymore, at least for the thirteen minutes that the movie lasts. Originally, the forgotten character of Ronald McNair, an African American astronaut and talented saxophonist who dreamed of being the first musician to record in space. His solo sax inside the shuttle challenger, which exploded during takeoff, was to be used at a Jean-Michel Jarre concert in Houston in 1986.

In his film set inside the International Space Station (ISS), Henri Sala doesn’t live up to that dream. “I did not want to make what could not exist, but I want to accompany the profound solitude of this being which finds itself, so fragile, in a super-perfect build.” Choose one of the pieces quartet of end times, Composed in 1941 by Olivier Messien while he was being held captive: The Motion bird abyss He wrote to one of his fellow prisoners a clarinet player.

This single, like Breath, is produced by a record player in weightlessness, who flips over on himself in the shuttle. Using simulation software, with the help of musicians, Anri Sala sculpts this irresistible raw material and sometimes accompanies it in the background with a ghost sax, a distant echo of the disappearing astronaut. “It is like white light deflected into two instruments. Two units of dialogue, two captivity, and two beings that were the subject of the story…”

Henri Sala, in Bourse du Trader, 2 rue de Vermes, Paris 1VerseOctober 14 to January 16, 2023. pinaultcollection.com

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