It’s fair to say that the thrill of a live symphony orchestra is often lost on—or ignored by—the general public. With so many other forms of entertainment competing for our attention, observing the effusion of a complex language of musical arrangements from the cheap seats in Lincoln Center hardly seems the best, most engaging option. The entrancing nature of Albanian-born Anri Sala’s multichannel video installations in “Answer Me” at the New Museum, however, reclaim the unpredictable excitement of live symphonic music by parsing its frequently inscrutable dialectic, particularly for an uninitiated audience.
The centerpiece of the exhibition, which includes multichannel audio and video installations that span several of the museum’s floors in addition to sculptures and drawings, is indubitably “Ravel Ravel Unravel” (2013), a piece first exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennale, where Sala represented France. The gallery, lined with foam wedges, serves as a semi-anechoic chamber. The camera follows two pianists’ left hands as they perform Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D-Major (1929-30) in separately recorded videos, screened one atop the other. The two interpretations fall in and out of sync, creating rising moments of lush, orchestral euphoria and, conversely, crashing, sonic overwhelm. There are fewer visuals in this movie than a performance in front of an entire ensemble and yet, the imperfect recordings hold you there, captive until the melody resolves. —Julia Wolkoff
Pictured: Anri Sala: Ravel Ravel, 2013 (detail), two-channel video, 20 3/4 minutes. Courtesy New Museum.