Critics’ Picks

Still from Dammi I Colori, 2003.

Still from Dammi I Colori, 2003.

New York

Anri Sala

Marian Goodman Gallery | New York
24 West 57th Street
October 12–November 13, 2004

Roping Homi Bhabha into a collaboration is no mean feat, but Anri Sala, who is showing four recent videos and a group of photographs at Marian Goodman, has prevailed upon the cultural theorist to help fine-tune American English translations for the many words for shades of light and dark that exist in the African language Wolof. In Sala’s video Làkkat, 2004, Senegalese children fidget against a gloomy background, reciting the Wolof words for “light-skinned,” “pitch-black,” and so on. The video exists in three other versions, with subtitles in British English, German, and French, each translated with the help of a different linguist or theorist and adjusted to register the various connotations of its charged terminology. Shot with a kind of careful stillness, it avoids pointing toward obvious conclusions. A similar delicacy of approach characterizes the series of photographs "From A Thousand Windows to The World of the Insane” 1992/2004, which shows people (mostly men) reading or simply gathering around newspapers stacked and displayed haphazardly on the streets of Albania. It’s an unobtrusive, subtle way of documenting the massive changes—including expanded freedom of the press—that the artist’s native country experienced after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In this context, Sala’s most widely-known work, Dammi I Colori, 2003, looks, surprisingly, a bit strident. The film functions largely as a platform for Edi Rama, the mayor of Tirana, who attempted to improve morale in the city by having the facades of its buildings painted in a rainbow of different colors. Perhaps because of current conditions in America, it seems a bit too close to a campaign ad. But for the most part, the works on view here manage to balance theory and aesthetics to great effect.