– Spring/Summer 2002

Getting Lost Is of the Essence: Anri Sala's Cinematic Parables

Mark Kremer

Anri Sala, Uomoduomo, colour video, 1min 40sec, 2000. Courtesy of Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris

Anri Sala, Uomoduomo, colour video, 1min 40sec, 2000. Courtesy of Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris

Ulysses throws himself away, just like the heroes of all true novels after him, as it were to get a grip on himself...1

My one and only viewing experience of Anri Sala's Arena (2001) took place in front of my neighbour's television. Since I do not own a video recorder - my reservations about having moving art images in my living space have kept me from buying one thus far - I had to persuade my neighbour to let me use her living-room one afternoon in order to watch Anri Sala's videos. It felt like I was trespassing as it was strange to find myself in a room so full of the life of another person without her being there. It must have been strange for her too, envisaging her neighbour, a person only known to her through occasional friendly meetings, sitting at her reading table and watching her TV.

Perhaps it had to do with this peculiar viewing situation, where I was out of my own context, that I responded so strongly to the first images of Sala's video. They showed the Tirana zoo, into which the outside urban environment has gradually encroached. I saw a void interior - a cage for large animals as was later revealed - and could not help thinking I was looking at an exhibition space looking out onto nature. It seemed similar to a space belonging to the kind of art institution one typically finds in the countryside of Western European nations such as France. The nervous wariness of the camera, filming the view from the space, portrayed an outside world that did

  1. Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectics of Enlightenment. Philosophical Fragments, New York: Social Studies Association, 1994

  2. Anri Sala in an interview by Massimiliano Gioni and Michele Robecchi. See 'Anri Sala. Unfinished Histories', in Flash Art, no.219, July-September 2001, p.107

  3. I borrow the term from the art historian Bruno Corra who used it around 1985 to characterise the work of the Italian artist Marco Bagnoli.