A multichannel installation of sound and sculpture, inhabiting the Observatory Hill Rotunda on what was once Sydney’s highest point, The Last Resort by celebrated French-Albanian artist Anri Sala was a beguiling and resonant reflection on history, nature, sound, place and perspective.
Born in Tirana, Albania, Sala grew up under the repressive communist regime before moving to Paris in 1996, and soon drew attention for his intriguing and audacious work. Encompassing video, live performance, musical recordings and installations, his practice brings together music, sculpture, space and architecture to explore themes of loss, language, dislocation and disruption.
In this storied Sydney Harbour site, the audience stepped beneath a gravity-defying ensemble of custom-built snare drums suspended upside down from the ceiling of the rotunda. There they experienced a rhythmic, live response to Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major, a seminal musical expression of the Enlightenment.
While the Enlightenment gave rise to democratic ideals, it also triggered the dispossession and destruction of Indigenous cultures across the world. Seeking to “compose with corruption”, Sala displaced the adagio tempo of the concerto’s second movement [tempi of the original concerto] with wind conditions described by sailor James Bell in his Private Journal of a Voyage to Australia, 1838–39.
Mozart’s score was upended, as if it were a message in a bottle carried across the ocean to Australia, weathered by wind and waves as it drifted across time and space, echoing the way that shifts of location, time and perspective alter intent and meaning. “Upside down in the Observatory Hill Rotunda,” wrote Australian academic Ross Gibson, “here is a western cultural treasure that has been troubled by its new location so that it cannot sound sure and enlightened”.
Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, John McDonald described how the installation “invites us to appreciate the beauties of the harbour and of Mozart’s Concerto, but also prompts more critical reflections … If ever this city manages to have an open and honest discussion about the role of public art, Sala’s ingenious Kaldor project would be an ideal place to start”.
The Last Resort was later presented at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, 2018, and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, 2018.
born 1974 in Tirana, Albania
lives and works in Berlin, Germany
The Last Resort
13 October – 5 November 2017
Observatory Hill, Sydney
This artwork was co-commissioned with international partners Esther Schipper, Berlin, and Marian Goodman Gallery.
Please note that the catalogue is currently not available for sale.
Read more about Anri Sala's vision and concept in the exhibition catalogue. With essays by leading local and international thinkers and creative minds, full-colour imagery and fragments of the project score.
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