Anri Sala’s musical mystery

“Anri Sala: Answer Me” -exhibition, which will be on display at the New Museum until April 10th, 2016, features multichannel audio and video installations. In his recent works, Albanian artist Anri Sala has interpreted musical compositions, classical works so to speak, with experiments that are structured into video and sound installations. The monumentally compound works navigate through the limits of our perception; mapping the sound and the spatial, and investigating the sound in the architectural spaces. This experiment transformed New Museum floors into symphonic areas of soundful meaning, leaving room for small encounters.

Anri Sala’s often political works have tested the boundaries of sound and language in our construction of cultural realities. From cultural point of view, his works seem to investigate contexts that are outside the dominant aspects of reality. Or the realities are rather revealed through the layering of world of sounds. We have adopted a notion that the words create the meaning in our cultural communication. Yet, as Sala with his approaches has shown, it is possible to challenge this definition further by mapping and deconstructing the terrain, in which words actually restrict our ways of interpreting or seeing the world. From this perspective, the everyday life is full of noises that communicate without restricted syntax. Sound, form this point of view, has a great capacity to alter meaning.

Sound’s features are attached to the material world that is so close to music. For Anri Sala, sound plays a role of an incomplete music, or music, which is in the state of becoming. Sound as a mediating device – even when it is real musical pieces divided into fragments – can document and edit reality, and communicate on a new level of poetic composition. This becomes immanent through the artist’s works, which New Museum profoundly projects. What stays with the viewer, is the personal corporeal experience, which is created in the architectural space as the entirely new perception. The change in the reception of the artistic works is focally in the embodiment. The surrounding sound world invites the viewer to walk into the next room full of sound. Or it freezes on the threshold, making the mystery of the sound’s origin more significant.

Fragmentation and repetition is evidential in Sala’s second floor installation. The work unfolds as a two-channel HD video from 2014: ‘The Present Moment (in B-flat)’. This installation depicts different interpretations of an original compositional score by Arnold Schoenberg, titled ‘Verklärte Nacht Op. 4’ (1899).’ On the video, the chamber music setting acts as a fictional rearrangement of the historical work. Two videos feature a sextet of two violins, two violas and two cellos that play solitary notes from the musical work. Eventually the original musical score unfolds. The audio-visual installation works powerfully on two separate screens absorbing the body of a viewer into its mellow soundscape. The intimate portraits of the musicians, the movements and gestures of their heads, hands, arms, and backs, act as counterbalance to the interior, in which their playing has been recorded. The setting of empty room or hall creates an atmosphere of a vast space that accumulates sound on multiple stages. Sala’s meditative and mesmerizing piece truly puts an emphasis on the present moment.

 

Upstairs, at the fourth floor of the museum, is a presentation of Anri Sala’s installation ‘Ravel Ravel Unravel’, from 2013. This is the work’s US premiere, it debuted in 2013 at the 55th edition of the Venice Biennale, where the artist represented France. In the title work ‘Ravel Ravel’ (2013), Sala reinterprets Maurice Ravel’s ‘Piano Concerto for the Left Hand and Orchestra in D major’. The composer created the composition in 1929 for an Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm during the World War I.

The museum space, in which the ‘Ravel Ravel’ video is installed, is designed to absorb sound and prevent echoes. In this chamber like room, there are two unique and separate performance interpretations of Ravel’s composition taking place. The musical echo is produced with ‘in and out of sync’ parameter, as two simultaneous performances measure temporal dimensions. The two pianists gradually shift out of unison, they are projected with their performances with two different orchestras. The one might evolve slightly different from the other, creating a minimal echo. Shifting between doubling notes and echoes creates the difference of the entire work, leaving the spectator paralyzed and in awe.

Sala’s work contours in time, with tempo variation and within the space that has left no chance for error. The other video in the fourth floor being part of this work is titled ‘Unravel’, 2013. It debuted at the Venice Biennial alongside ‘Ravel Ravel’. ‘The Unravel’ video presents DJ Chloé Thévenin who takes part in the manual and physical manifestation of these two concerto recitals. She has the performance recitals on two turntables, in which she accelerates and slows the records in process. Fascinating, a visual turnout of the concerto sound in a new gesture.

More info about the artist and the current exhibition “Anri Sala: Answer Me” :

Hauser & Wirth about Anri Sala

The exhibition info at New Museum

 

Subodh Gupta’s Seven Billion Light Years

Subodh Gupta, Seven Billion Light Year V, 2014
Subodh Gupta, Seven Billion Light Years V, 2014. Oil on canvas, found utensil, resin, 241.3 x 226.1 x 10.2 cm / 95 x 89 x 4 in

Subodh Gupta’s new exhibition ‘Seven Billion Light Years’ opens with multiple content, showing his performative sculptures, installations, films and a body of new paintings at Hauser & Wirth starting on February 10th. The exhibition takes root in the life in India which is his native country, addressing the local life where mundane and sacred exist side by side. Gupta is known for utilizing found everyday objects in his artworks, resonating meaning with utensils used in making and cooking food, as well as larger vessels such as a bicycle, on which smaller everyday objects are stacked. His works narrate about the culture of accumulation, where the people, food, and the daily exchange gets fused, appearing both chaotic and ritualistic. As a centerpiece of the gallery’s current exhibition is a series of new paintings called ‘Seven Billion Light Years’. These belong to Gupta’s signature subject of using basic kitchen utensils that are familiar to every Indian. Gupta’s art works raise questions, addressing what it means if the world’s people are not anonymous, but have identity and a bit of infinity. In the level of the paintings, the artist uses three-dimensional objects that are fixed to canvas with resin. These paintings carry the exhibition’s title, but there is more behind the meaning.  The title refers to the seven billion inhabitants on the earth echoing about the materiality and the material fragility of our human lives. It displays the idea of intrinsic marks that we leave on the earth’s surface throughout the years. The objects speak about the human marks in the cosmos as well; the distance between our mortal lives and the cosmos appears as unfathomable.

Anthropologist and writer Bhrigupati Singh has written about Gupta’s work. The artist reminds us that what is near is

‘no less cosmic or mysterious – on the surfaces of our ordinary domestic vessels that journey with us, sometimes for years. What we discover in the process are intricately crafted pieces of the cosmos.’

Gupta’s film ‘I go home every single day’ (2004/2014), narrates his commute between New Delhi and his native home in Patna. The journey in the film poetically tells about the changing landscape of the urban cityscape and the more traditional Indian home. The home is a place, where the camera lens repeatedly comes back to focusing on outdoor areas interpreting smaller details, in which the white wall becomes a surface of nuances. It acts as a backdrop for objects, ropes, plants and canvas totes. The yard itself as entrance stands as a sign for the domestic; water pipe carry a meaning that water is a sustenance, without it there would be nothing. Everything in-between the train and the home is in evolving chaos, where progress lives as  traditional life changes and even disappears.

Pure (1), 1999-2014, Mixed media, Dimensions variable, installation view, 'Subodh Gupta, Everything is inside', Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 2014. Photo: Axel Schneider
Pure (1), 1999-2014, Mixed media, Dimensions variable, installation view, ‘Subodh Gupta, Everything is inside’, Museum fur Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 2014. Photo: Axel Schneider

As a counterpoint to Gupta’s recent paintings called ‘Seven Billion Light Years’, Hauser & Wirth also presents an installation  ‘Pure (I)’ (1999 / 2014), which is a variation of a piece exhibited last year at the Museum fur Moderne Kunst in  Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Gupta’s early work ‘Pure (1)’ originates back to 1999, and it was first presented at the Khoj workshop in Modinagar, India. This initiated the ongoing project on the everyday objects as vessels of larger cosmic power. The artist started collecting household utensils around New Delhi, including a hookah an a plough, sinking them into a field which was composed of a paste of mud and cow dung.  He also covered himself with the same paste laying at the center of the field in a yoga posture of shavasana (the corpse).  This, according to the artist, resulted in the state of ‘meditative blankness’.

At Hauser & Wirth, ‘Pure (I)’ has become a new work, in which Gupta is revisiting his own artistic process that took place 15 years ago. At the gallery, he presents a group of household objects that are partially buried in pure earth, along with a group of black and white photographs which stand for the neighbors from whom he borrowed the original objects for the earlier piece in 1999. These photographic portraits hang opposite of the earthy field, where gallery visitors can also walk, and hence experience its entity. The group of photographs present the people as de facto collaborators from the artist’s time of making his art.

Another big piece of art is an installation ‘This is not a fountain’ (2011-2013), that comprises of a large number of timeworn aluminum utensils that the artist collected. In the midst of it are water pipes, which while dripping ‘keep washing’ the surface of the installation. The artist states that he has been interested in the uniform of the mass-produced dishes. Yet, what comes out is the water as an essential element that pours as a ritualistic connotation for purity, showing the basis of things themselves. Meanwhile, the other art works at the gallery exhibition also reflect about Gupta’s own biographical attachment to his subject. His own middle-class background allows him to show the contrastive realities of the deprived and poor versus the richer classes. His use of everyday vessels made of various materials, where the socially humble turns into a shiny bronze, displays a sharp division between different social classes, whilst in the global exhibition space the meaning gets circulated into other levels as well, perhaps becoming a subtle divider between east and west. Additionally, the short film playing with the same title ‘Seven Billion Light Years’ (2014/2015, film, 2. min), meditates a Hindu philosophical idea of the cosmos as leela, which means play and dance in the traditional philosophy. The daily bread-baking becomes a metaphor with cosmic turns, where bread flies lightly like moments in life.

‘Seven Billion Light Years’ will be on view 10 February 2015 at the Hauser & Wirth’s downtown gallery location at 511 West 18th Street, and be on view through 25 April. The exhibition coincides with the debut of a major work by Subodh Gupta in the exhibition ‘After Midnight: Indian Modernism to Contemporary India 1947/1997’, which opens 8 March 2015, at the Queens Museum in New York NY.

More info: Hauser & Wirth: http://www.hauserwirth.com/

To map Gupta’s work a little more in its context, the following video presented on New Delhi TV (NDTV) along with his short interview, is a good start:

 

Frieze NY2014: reading sculpturally sensuous terms

Philosopher Gilles Deleuze has suggested that among the arts, sculpture presents perhaps best those qualities that are materially sensational. The sensation of stone, metal and marble vibrate according to strong or weak beats. Then, there are protuberances and cavities in the material that resonate with each other. The set-up of the sculpture with large empty space between the groups, or within a single group, makes it that one no longer knows whether it is the light or air that sculpts or is sculpted (Deleuze: What is Philosophy).

 

Maria Nepomuceno’s installation. courtesy: @A Gentil Carioca

Sensations attached to the materiality in sculptures relate to ideas of tactility (perceptible to the touch; tangible). Our experiences of materiality has shifted, as 21-century cultural landscapes keep molding our tactility through complex body-digital technology relationships, changing our imagination of the virtual spaces. Contemporary sculpture is reflecting some of these shifts, showing powerfully the time beyond the current, the moment at hand. Among some of the interventions, Frieze 2014 in New York City paraded a loss of the technological overrule. The disengagement from materiality at large, was shown in some works. There were works that were pointing to our roots of craftsmanship, bringing back materiality of different scales, and putting out the new spatial engagements. Noteworthy is that large scale is not necessarily the most powerful signifier, but some minimal portions or material may also integrate ideas. An example of this kind was installation with smaller details and nuances by artist Maria Nepomuceno. The artist was presented at Frieze NYC by A Gentil Cariocas Gallery from Rio de Janeiro.

Nepomuceno draws on Brazilian craft traditions using weaving and braiding techniques, as well as her own designs to build biomorphic sculptural forms. The sculpted appears as seductive when the colors and patterns nourish imagination. The lingering movement and rhythm comes from the way of installing sculptures in the space, some scattered forming a logic. The artist allows sculptures to spread across space like vegetation. Rope and necklaces are used as raw material in the works, and the materials take a natural spiral form. The artists has been using body and nature as inspiration, creating infinity, and shaping of living organisms. The ancient traditions and techniques are a source for her art,  as she gives materials a new form and content.

Another woman artist in Frieze show was talented Jumana Manna, presented by New York’s CRG Gallery. The artist recently exhibited her works at Sculpture Center in Long Island City titled Menace of Origins. Manna’s piece at the art fair was titled Crowd connecting closely to her recent show, and echoing of same elements and materiality.  The artist has explored a notion of relics in her works. Using archaeology as a device, she has explored ruins and architectural forms that reminiscence human presence. The works that build ideas and are structurally challenging explore the construction of power, nationalism, gender, and history through material relationships. Manna works mainly with sculpture and video, often pairing them together to create surprising events.

Jumana Manna, Crowd, 2013. Plaster, Plastic Net, Egg Cartons. courtesy: @CRG gallery.

Respectively,  Liz Larner’s sculpture spoke from the Frieze exhibition of Los Angeles based gallery Regen Projects. Her bold sculpture was physically large and airy at the same time. A free-standing metal sculpture displays a cold aesthetic. Her sculpture “V (planchette)” (2014) has a smooth aluminum surface, which is painted a chalky black. It is curvy suggesting motion, giving feelings according to the angle it is viewed from. It is wider at its base, leaner in the middle, large and flowing at the top. The statuesque nature promises balance, but gives a hint of character that might be leading to odd and ambiguous places.

Liz Larner, V (porchette), 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects.

Rémy Markowitsch’s five-part group of wooden sculptures took the stage curated by Berlin-based Galerie EIGEN + ART.  His installation FALL uses two different historical events as material, namely four of the sculptures mimic the painting Absturtz (the Fall) by Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler, depicting Alpine climbers that were created for the 1894 World’s Fair in Antwerp. The fifth figure comes from a different source, representing a German mountaineer Toni Kurz, who died when attempting to climb the north face of the Eiger in 1936. Sculptures are nude, so they come across as timeless, without specific location.  His installation is accompanied by his other work showing mountains, which give out a feel of nostalgia to the romantic past times when climbing at the world’s highest mountains produced heroes, while there were sacrifices, and danger involved.

Remy Markowitsch, FALL, 2013. 5 wooden figures, rope, carabineer, dimensions variable. courtesy: @Galerie EIGEN+ART

Lehman Maupin (New York/Hong Kong) brought in a large sculpture installation called Library II-II by artist Liu Wei. This sculpture is made from thousands of books and it weights nearly a ton. The gallery told that they had to reinforce the floor underneath the sculpture so its weight was supported.  Liu Wei’s sculpture will be part of an exhibition Bringing the World into the World at the Queens Museum (opens on June 15). Around the sculpture, space is altered and tilted. The work notes literariness of our civilizations. The inventions of paper; dimensionality that comes with the written cultures and around ancient canopies of words. Lingua and library, freedom of press, freedom of writing, utterances. But more than any literal connotations of the material itself, the sculptural challenges beyond the apparent, parafrazing, the architectural of the cities and urban life cycles, as our connection to global spaces, and disconnectedness from the traditions.

Frieze 2014, Liu Wei, Library II-II, 2013. courtesy: @Lehmann Maupin

Galeria Fortes Vilaça from São Paulo presented Erica Verzutti’s concrete sculptures that were academic and playful at the same time. The gallery commented that Verzutti’s works gained a lot of attention at the Frieze art fair, due to their brilliant interactive quality, and sense of humor. The sculptures are semantically pointing to archeological pasts, many of them depicting minerals and natural stones that appear as traces of nature. Playfulness comes from the interactive quality of her sculptures, some parts are loose (like egg-shape stones) and can be organized differently. Double Sunset is a bit different from her other works, some of them on stands. The work on the wall showcases two basketballs as a colorful urban signifier of play and sports, when they are installed in the concrete. But ultimately the viewer has a chance for interpretation. A woman’s bust, femininity paraded?

Erica Verzutti, Double Sunset, 2014. Concrete and basketballs. Courtesy: @Galeria Fortes Vilaça.

One show-stopper at Frieze was a pale installation composed of a single cage, which was hanging from the ceiling with nothing around it but the white walls. Wilfredo Prieto was the artist curated by Nogueras Blanchard gallery from Barcelona. It evidantly showed how to be captured, a sentiment so fearful, yet potentially something that makes art appealing to its viewers. The possibilities are endless to imagine how to relate to the cage as an object, to think what are the experiences and feelings attached to its awful shape. It represents zoo-like ready-made feelings, and it reminds of a consumer-object relationship without pointing to a specific direct target, except the art fair itself? Who would need a shark-cage? Who needs this kind of art? A question, what are the sensations attached to our art-viewing, comes to mind. Is art made for humans as animals? Weird crescendo of concepts makes it art?

Wilfredo Prieto, Shark Cage, 2012. courtesy: @Nogueras Blanchard.

Shark cage illustrates a perfect example of the first position. The piece does not allow for the poetic metaphor and is in itself a clear statement, provocative and critical of its environment, in this case an art fair. The presentation of this work becomes a pitched battle between the object, the context and the interpretation of the viewer. The artist participates only as a facilitator of such a meeting. A strict representation of the cage, without any further intervention, is what turns us all into potential sharks. (Alex Nogueras&Rebeca Blanchard)

 

Tobias Putrih, Macula, 2014. courtesy: @Galerie Greta Meert.

One of the favorite was Tobias Putrih who is internationally acclaimed artist working with such modest materials as cardboard and plywood. Those are exactly the materials that are hard to work with, as there is the air element that challenges them. Putrih’s two sculptures were presented by Galerie Greta Meert from Brussels. The cardboard was transparent enough to create a surface, which circulates light. His sculptural objects are attractive and sensual enough, as much as they project intellectual and architectural propositions, definitely aiming to shape our viewing experience. Touchable, palpable, airy, anything between transparent and materialwise poetic.

Last, but not least, Paul McCarthy’s large blue head sculpture belonged to New York gallery Hauser Wirth’s exhibition titled On the Fabric of the Human Body. His large heads are like prop-objects, and comment a tradition of beheaded figures in art history. Together with works from Rita Ackerman, Louise Bourgeois, Isa Genzken; McCarthy’s sculpture worked as expressive part of the art fair, expressing body that reinvents and transgresses.

Paul McCarthy, White Snow Head, 2012-2013, Silicone, fiberglass, steel.
Paul McCarthy, White Snow Head, 2012-2013. Silicone, fiberglass, steel. courtesy: @HAUSER&WIRTH

As a summary, what comes to mind is the movement of the virtual; our contemporary lifestyles embedded with mediascapes (term coined by Arjun Appadurai in 1990). The global cultural flow affects both the artists and the viewers, who are participants of the art world. The historical referencing opens to ideas of homogenization of the arts. Repetitive use of similar motives over and over again would easily define the art, and block any motion. Such would be the case if the consumer culture says that art should be purely digitalized! As we want to consume while we eat, rest, and start again with the same. Contrastively, art should provoke us, make us move from our comfort zones, let us move in between the sculptural, sense the provocative. It can touch our sensibilities. It should stop us from numbness.

images: Firstindigo&Lifestyle