Anri Sala @ French Pavilion, Venice Biennale

Review by Melanie Letore | 18 Jul 2013

The French pavilion's exhibition Ravel Ravel Unravel by Albanian-born artist Anri Sala is situated in the German pavilion, as the two nations have swapped premises for this year's Biennale. Asserting France and Germany's friendship, proclaiming the irrelevance of borders in art, this move also adds the context as another layer to 'unravel.' The title of the exhibition alludes simultaneously to the French composer and to the musical tangling and untangling witnessed during the show.

In the central semi-anechoic room, two massive screens each depict a pianist's left hand performing Ravel's Concerto in D for the Left Hand. Both performers' right hand remains unused and unseen. Offscreen, an orchestra can be heard alongside the two performances. Here begins the 'ravelling:' the tempo of the concerto has been altered so that the two interpretations of the piece layer each other, creating at times what sounds like an echo. On either side of this central room, we see a woman DJ. The first room shows her close up, concentrated, with little sound except a few snatches of piano and strings. It becomes apparent in the third room that she is mixing the two pianists' recordings to make the gaps between the two performances disappear. She has been filmed in the spacious pavilion itself, so while she is trying to eliminate the eventual repetitions, the music reverberates, this time creating a real echo.

Anri Sala creates an engrossing experience. It becomes intuitional to try to unite what is seen and what is heard. This knotting and unpicking of the music allows viewers to observe set movements that are obscure to non-practitioners, of the realm of the sublime. [Melanie Letore]