Guests were asked to bring their sturdy invitation cards, perforated with a code containing four seconds of music (Invitations, 2011) to Anri Sala’s opening at Galerie Chantal Crousel. Throughout the evening, those cards were fed into a barrel organ in the courtyard, which played familiar notes in a discordant fashion. Shortly after I arrived and handed over my card, a few older fellows toting brass instruments joined the festive crowd from off the street and all but overwhelmed the tunes eking out of the organ. It was only when these two musical cultures began to spar that the title of Sala’s chosen song hit me: “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash.
Perhaps then, it’s no wonder that the word “clash” has stuck in my head, just like the band’s refrain, with respect to the body of work presented here. Sala’s show is one where chance and orchestration collide, and one that mobilizes our senses in order to attune us to questions of space and place, beginning with a most basic contrast: to the left of the entrance, the space is darkened; to the right, it is fully lit. Drawn to the dark side, one finds two works that intervene directly in the gallery architecture. One wall houses No Window No Cry (Le Corbusier, Maison-atelier Lipchitz, Boulogne) (2011), a glass window hollowed at its center to hold a small brass music box cylinder that can be wound up and played. Through this window we can see the pitted wall Score (2011), the organ punch card enlarged on the gallery’s exterior wall, now pockmarked by hand-sized slots allowing random city sounds to infiltrate the gallery, light to peek through, and for us to peer out.
These architectural modifications help form the setting for Sala’s video Le Clash (2010), where three interpretations of that so-famous-it’s-tame punk melody emerge from a boarded up music hall, a barrel organ played by two musicians, and a shoe box carried by a lonesome looking man strolling around a city. When the film ends, 5 Flutterbyes (2007/2011), Sala’s rendition of an aria from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, recomposed as a “duet” (for two baritones and five sopranos), fills the space. Wandering over to the otherwise empty room containing speakers from which the high-notes seamlessly merge, one discovers an illuminated fan glowing in the atrium above, trapped like a butterfly encased in glass.
Whereas all the works in this section of the show encourage listening and bodily movement (at the very least a foot-tapping to the beat), the complementing gallery space is curiously static. Ten color photographs of cinema interiors, titled Why the Lion Roars (2011), and two fat almanacs filled with page after page of feature film titles, stand in for an eponymous film project Sala produced two years prior for the Paris art space Le Centquatre. The films listed in the book are programmed according to changes in atmospheric temperature, their timing and duration dependent on Mother Nature’s whims. The photographs document the moment a temperature change causes one film to fade to the next, as do the shifts in hue on the book pages. Like No Window No Cry, which has an identical pendant installed in Le Corbusier’s Maison-atelier, the gallery version of Why the Lion Roars also makes stereophonic reference to an off-site project. However, here the lion’s roar only comes through as a distant echo.
- 1View of Anri Sala at Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris, 2011. All photos by Florian Kleinefenn. All images courtesy of Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris.
- 2Anri Sala, No Window no Cry (Le Corbusier, Maison-atelier Lipchitz, Boulogne), 2011. Window and music box.
- 3Anri Sala, Le Clash, 2010. Still from HD video, dolby surround sound, music box. 8 minutes 31 seconds.
- 4Anri Sala, 5 Flutterbyes, 2011. Illuminated fan, CD. 7minutes 11 seconds.
- 5Anri Sala, Thursday 16.07.2009 (Why the Lion Roars) (detail), 2011. Series of 10 color photographs.41 cm x 52 cm unframed. 51 cm x 62.5 cm framed.