– Spring/Summer 2002

Finding the Words

Soren Grammel

Anri Sala, Arena, colour video with sound, 4min, 38sec, 2001 (video still). Courtesy of Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris.

Anri Sala, Arena, colour video with sound, 4min, 38sec, 2001 (video still). Courtesy of Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris.

In order to understand the following text it is necessary to define some terms. The 'fallen system' refers to a political system, specifically the communist reign of Enver Hoxha in Albania, the country where Anri Sala was born in 1974. The piece of work discussed in this essay is his video Intervista - Finding the Words, made in 1998. 'Intervista' is the Albanian word for interview. In the course of the text I will only use the shortened version of the title Intervista.

When I was at school, the bell often rang before the teacher had time to
finish and he would complete his last sentence the following day. The day
after the system fell, the teacher who taught us Marxism-Leninism had no
other choice but to start teaching philosophy, the heretic one.' Can you
imagine the continuation of his lecture that day!?

The thinking processes in this quote, and in Anri Sala's video Intervista, are based on a similar experience. Both are dealing with empty space, the vacuum that the disintegration of social systems creates for the individuals who have lived within them and helped carry them out.

At the beginning of the work, cracks appear in the black of the opening sequence. Eventually the black becomes recognisable as the inside of a cardboard box, perhaps a packing case. The box is cut open at the edges and it becomes clear that the camera is filming the scene from the bottom of the box itself. From this perspective we see a young man who bends over and, as this view from underneath is

  1. 2. Berlin Biennale, Cologne, 2001, pp.224-27.

  2. Roland Barthes, 'Myth Today', Mythologies, London: MacMillan, 1972, pp.117-74.

  3. Ibid.

  4. At the moment world political events show very clearly that the tendency to simplify complex matters increases if those matters are perceived to be controversial. It becomes apparent that the main reason for mythological speech is always fear which is caused by confusion. Roland Barthes writes: 'Myth in fact belongs to the province of a general science, coextensive with linguistics, which is semiology'. For exactly this reason the statement made by the German foreign secretary Joschka Fischer - 'that this isn't a semantic problem' after being asked after the events of September 11 if 'war' is the right definition for the fight against terrorism - is wrong.

  5. Intervista - Finding the Words.

  6. Ibid.

  7. Ibid.

  8. Anri Sala, 'Get Out! An exhibition on the Subject of Going Away', Germination 13, Bialystok: Galeria Arsenal, 2002.

  9. Adorno and Horkheimer provide a critical interpretation of this issue in Dialectic of Enlightenment. They understand the modern process of becoming a subject through language as already implied in Odyseuss's journey. Odysseus overcomes myths with the help of language, for example, when he introduces himself to the cyclops using the name 'nobody'. Later on Odysseus and his companions are only able to escape the cyclops's revenge because he shouts to his brothers, after being blinded, 'Nobody blinded me'. This statement is doomed to miss its actual intention. Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, 'Dialektik der Aufklärung', in Max Horkheimer, Gesammelte Schriften, Band 5, Frankfurt a.M., 1987, pp.13-288.

  10. Intervista - Finding the Words, 26 min, colour, 1998.

  11. 2. Berlin Biennale, Cologne, 2001, pp.224-27.

  12. Ibid.

  13. Ibid.

  14. Edi Muka, 'Nocturnes by Anri Sala', Manifesta 3 Borderline Syndrom, Ljubljana, 2000, pp.147-48.

  15. Louis Althusser, 'Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses', Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays, London, 1971, pp.123-73.

  16. Ibid.

  17. Valdet Sala in Intervista - Finding the Words.