The Architecture of Memory

Long time ago I remember my grandfather taking me to see “Otello” at the Colon opera theatre for the first time. It was a magical atmosphere where the sound of the drums and the violins made you hold your tears in your throat. Years later, wandering in an old bookstore in Buenos Aires city, I bought Wassily Kandinsky’s book “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” and understood the connection between sound, image and memory. Now, looking back, I can connect Anry Sala’s exhibition “Answer Me” (New Museum, New York) to Kandinsky’s statement because the way this artist uses sound, evokes memory per se by building spaces in our inner self. Sala uses sound to design a space that connects to human emotions and that is how you feel like there’s a sort of harmonic vibration pulling out a memory from you. I felt attracted, immerse, out of my self-conscious self at that exhibition, as if I belong to that space that the artist is creating. As Kandinsky said, sound is abstract and resonates in ourselves without any conscious barrier or judgment, it just penetrates us. In Susan Sonntag’s words, “Art is a form of nourishment, of consciousness”  and sound is a form of art because it creates harmony and puts ourselves facing emotions.

For example, in this exhibition Sala exposes the way sound can evoke memory when narrating social and political histories like the consequences of life after communism. Considering that the artist lives in Berlin, a city where I also lived, I thought about the people I met, the places I visited where you can still witness the consequences of communism in people’s lives. Somehow I find contradictions between a city that is being positioned as an art mecca and fashion tourist destination, as being Germany’s capital, versus a place that is facing social problems such as integrating people who had to live under the soviet uni0n regime. I wander whether people from New York City had a silent gap in their minds and connected sound with inner silence or story from behind Berlin’s walls…

In any case, Sala also connects to Wim Wenders because he is offering a glimpse of the post communism atmosphere but years later after Wenders. So, it turns that when I started analyzing this exhibition, I didn’t feel so attracted to it. Once my emotions where cool down by my analytical mind, I believe Wenders and Part have already walk through this paths years before and with a much strong statement.

One last thing I though about is that his works remind me Arvo Pärt and other musicians who used minimalism as a mean to provoke specific emotions. Pärt states that music is like food and he uses it to evoke sacred spaces which, personally, I believe it connects with what Sala is doing. I highly recommend watching this short video to understand his creative process. Finally, I think Sala’s strongest statement is very effective when creating this memory spaces in connection to the recent and unfortunate Sarajevo war.

Letizia Balzi


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