Esther Schipper is pleased to present Take Over, Anri Sala’s first solo exhibition with the gallery which will also inaugurate the gallery’s new space at Potsdamer Strasse 81E.
Featuring a major new sound and video installation and a large-scale drawing project, the exhibition addresses central themes in Anri Sala's oeuvre, exploring the relationships between music and narrative, architecture and film and interleaving qualities of different media in both complex and intuitive ways to produce works in which one medium takes on the qualities of another.
A conceptual point of departure for the central work Take Over are two well-known musical works, affiliated by an entangled political and cultural history, the Marseillaise and the Internationale. Written in 1792 the Marseillaise was closely tied to the French Revolution but also quickly spread to other countries where it became a symbol for the overthrow of oppressive regimes. Thus the 1871 lyrics of the Internationale were initially also set to the tune of the Marseillaise, until 1888 when its original music was composed and the song became the standard anthem of the socialist movement. Both anthems have undergone major changes in their political connotations: from revolution, restoration, socialism, resistance and patriotism, to additional associations with colonization and oppression in the second half of the twentieth century (as national anthems of France and the Soviet Union, respectively). Yet to this day their meaning remains in flux, as the two songs continue to be appropriated. Take Over makes audible the close relationship of these two political anthems and mines the musical kinship for traces of this changing symbolic significance.
Placed in the otherwise empty room for which it was conceived, Take Over first manifests as a contained architectural structure consisting of a central wall with angled glass panels. The two songs appear doubled in two complementary films. Each projected on one side of the projection wall, the films depict the keyboard of a Disklavier piano, played by a human player and animated by its programming. A variety of actions—rhythmic movements, single strokes, clusters, waves or bursts, transforms the keyboard into an animated landscape in black and white, of valleys and peaks.
Take Over seamlessly dissolves the boundaries between individual media—the films are sculptural, the glass walls cinematic and the oscillating sounds appear to mold the space. Moreover, sound literally determines the film, whose changing focus is tied to musical tones and the movement of the keys producing them—even if the underlying system remains elusive.
An anthem is also a central motif of Them Apples—44 drawings of individual apples from which a bite has been taken—arranged on the wall as notes on an imaginary score of the German national anthem. The individual images are created through drawing into consecutive layers of wet ink applied onto stone paper which is characterized by its lack of absorbency—the liquid slowly dries on the surface of the paper. (The process recalls Anri Sala’s early training in fresco painting.)
The bites, like fingerprints, are unique and belong to refugees the artist invited to participate. An integral part of the project that constitutes the conceptual and material basis for Sala’s drawings, was a three-day workshop, organized in cooperation with the public arts organization KurtKurt in Berlin-Moabit. The interaction with the refugees during these sessions in which artist’s studio and refugees produced objects, drawings, and photographs, created the conditions from which the drawing project departs— performative, time-based events which became drawings that incorporate this origin.
Them Apples creates a densely woven web of signification, between the individual and the nation, new beginnings and great uncertainty, identity and integration, represented both by the ambivalence of the apple as symbol of knowledge, temptation and redemption and the German anthem, a hymn laden with overdetermined traces of historical significance.
Take Over features pianist Clemens Hund-Göschel.