‘Some places have no buildings or dates to be remembered, but they produce their own soundtrack.’ These words, taken from Anri Sala’s notes on his recent work Air Cushioned Ride (2007), highlight the growing importance that sound occupies in the Albanian artist’s practice. At Chantal Crousel, videos such as Mixed Behaviour (2003), Now I See (2004) and Long Sorrow (2005) – that feature, respectively, a DJ on a rooftop in New York during the New Year’s Eve’s fireworks, Icelandic rock band Tranbant on stage and free jazz saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc suspended from the facade of a building in a suburb of Berlin – see Sala continuing his exploration of the relation between sound and space.
Air Cushioned Ride takes as point of departure an aural phenomenon that the artist experienced while driving across Arizona, as he listened to baroque chamber music on his car radio in a highway rest area. As he was approaching a group of parked lorries, the airwaves of an unknown country music radio station, diverted by the presence of the vehicles, started to interfere with the music he was listening to. The video consists of the recording of this experience, illustrating how Sala approaches the notion of place from the point of view of memory and the subjective experience of time and space: ‘What I call a place is where one remembers having been, which is not only made of space but also of time.’ The camera pans around the lorries, while the two sounds alternate according to the position of the car in relation to them.
The name given to such radio interferences, ‘spurious emission’, is the title of a companion video to Air Cushioned Ride. Sala commissioned a composer to transcribe the recording of the conflicting radio waves into a musical score, which is also presented in the exhibition on a precisely staged music stand. The video presents the encounter, in what seems to be a music rehearsal studio, between a baroque trio – cembalo, viola da gamba and viola – and a country band – guitar, bass and drums – that alternatively play the different parts of the composition. The soundtrack functions as a collage between two musical genres, two different times.
The same interest in the confrontation of different temporalities can be found in the two-channel silent video installation After Three Minutes (2007). The work includes a video that Sala realized in 2004, a three minute-long close-up shot of a cymbal lit by a stroboscopic light. Three Minutes (2004) plays with the discrepancies between different rhythms: that of the cymbal hit by an out-of-shot hand, as well as the loss of information between the frequency of the stroboscope (around 100 flashes per second) and the 25 frames per second of the video camera. For After Three Minutes, Sala further altered the pulse of the object by refilming the video as it was installed in an exhibition, using a two-frame-per-second security camera. Both videos are projected side by side, intensifying the temporal complexity of the work.
Apart from the musical nature of the works, the exhibition itself is orchestrated as a precise musical cycle. The videos are not played simultaneously but one after the other, functioning as the three movements of a musical composition. This temporal display reinforces the passage between different moods and the plays of echo between the works. The exhibition illustrates Sala’s interest in in-between or transitional times, moments when the relation between the different elements involved is unstable and cannot be grasped. As Sala puts it, ‘I like to offer the premise for uncertainty, to give things the potential to escape their familiarity.’