Answer Me at the New Museum

Written by FAB Intern Molly Taylor

Anri Sala’s exhibition Answer Me opened last Thursday evening at the New Museum. Sala, who is native to Albania, filled the second, third, and fourth floor with musical scores, video projects, photography, moving sculpture installations, and collaborative drawings. Many of his pieces are set in Albania’s capital, Tirana, which was communist until 1996 when the Democratic Party won its first election. The financial and political unrest that followed this transition is the setting and inspiration for many of Sala’s pieces displayed in the exhibit.

IMG_4118One of the most prominent video installations, Dammi i Colori, captures, from the perspective of a moving car, the transformation of Tirana in 2003 when a large swath of former communist architecture was painted in bright colors. The video features a voice over conversation between Sala and then mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama, who discuss the application of the colors and their effect on city following the collapse of the communist regime. The newly applied colors, combined with the deterioration of Tirana’s infrastructure, sheds light on a city struggling to make sense of its own past and future.

 

No room in the exhibition is without the echoes of Sala’s scores, many of which are borrowed from old masters, like Arnold Schoenberg, and are rearranged to emphasize the movement of individual notes through the gallery. This emphasis on movement beautifully illustrates Sala’s interest in the changing nature of urban spaces. His work often highlights the paradox of these spaces, which, trapped between past and future, can appear stagnate.

In another collaboration with Rama, Inversion – Creating Space Where There Appears to Be None (2010), Sala sets the playfulness of art against the dryness of office life, further emphasizing the duality of civic spaces. Rama uses crayons and colored pencils to draw on the back of printed emails, memos, and faxes. These doodles remind us of the human in every political role, and the attempts we all make to remain present, even if that requires a little fantasy.

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Sala’s work attempts to visually and auditorily displays the detachment between Tirana and its people, illustrating the political disenchantment that continued following the collapse of the communist regime. Much of the show creates a tangible tension, squeezed out by Sala’s repeated contrast of foreground/background. Answer Me provides no answer. Rather, it illustrates the absence of an answer in many contemporary socio-political spaces.

Answer Me illustrates the tension between old spaces and new ideas, showcasing in a multi-sensory way its affect on a changing environment. Similarly, the Lower East Side continues to face the juxtaposition of old and new, struggling to simultaneously protect and invite. Answer Me highlights these tensions and the delicate balance that the Lower East Side constantly needs to strike.

Molly is an intern at FAB (Jan-Jun 2016). After moving here from California, she began earning her degree from the School of Individualized Study at NYU. She is currently focusing on Performance Studies, biopolitics, and Metropolitan Studies. Past internships include the Invisible Dog Art Center and Show of Force Productions.

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