An appropriate follow-up to experiencing Aernout Mik’s installations at The Project is Anri Sala’s solo show across the street at Marian Goodman Gallery. The show, entitled Purchase Not By Moonlight (2008), brings together several of Sala’s work spanning the last five years as a kind of culmination of his own exploration of video, sound, and spatiality.
The show is comprised of four distinct films, Answer Me, After Three Minutes, Time After Time, and Lak-kat, and two kinetic sculptures, one called Title Suspended, the other Doldrums. In this carefully choreographed show, each work unfolds in time in a multiplicity of echos as the videos and sculptures play on a timer and across the various spaces of the gallery.
The first work encountered is a combination of the single channel video, Lak-kat, and an installation of several altered snare drums. The video, shot in Senegal, depicts a clausterphobically dark room illuminated by a single humming fluorescent strip light. The camera roams between close-ups of the buzzing light, moths batting their wings silently against the glass, and a teacher and three boys repeating the pronunciation of words and phrases in the Wolof language like, “pure white,” and “light skin.” The words translated on screen serve as visual echoes of the already acoustically echoed words in the video, calling attention to the nuances of the words black and white, and to questions around translation.
Another video work is Sala’s most recent work, Answer Me (2008). Filmed in a geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller, which served as a former NSA surveillance tower, the piece depicts a tense encounter of silences between a man and a woman. We see only the back of the young man sitting at a full drum set, when there is silence; the camera cuts to an extreme close up of his wrought face when he fiercely plays the drum in a thick rhythm that echoes in the dome. Between these images are close shots of the young woman speaking while the man plays drums. We can hear faint traces of what she is trying to say at times, and at other times we can only attempt to read her lips.
It is a drama echoed back to us through the installation of drums (Doldrums) that play at particular times as if by magic, to the sound of each film. It is the tempo of the entire installation, and the echo that continually refers back to itself, reminding the viewer of her I-was-just-there presence.
In no ways temporally linear, the installation is an orchestration that leads the viewer to experience works at precise moments, forcing attentiveness, a deeper engagement with the ways that the work interact with each other. Ultimately, it is an awareness of one’s own body moving through the space of the exhibition.
Images: Anri Sala, Answer Me (2008), HD video, stereo sound; Anri Sala, Làk-kat (2008), Video projection, stereo sound. Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery.