If you’ve ever encountered an artwork and left feeling a little perplexed, you’re not alone.
This is why we’ve created a ‘cheat sheet’ to prepare you for the world premiere of Anri Sala’s artwork The Last Resort opening in Sydney in October 2017. This is the 33rd Kaldor Public Art Project, co-presented with Art & About Sydney. A marriage of sculpture and sound, the installation is made up of 38 beautifully hand-crafted snare drums which resound with classical music while suspended upside down in the air.
Whether you want to arrive in-the-know or with a few pieces of trivia to impress your mates, think of this as your SparkNotes on contemporary art.
1. It’s a musical installation
Not only does the installation look Instagram-worthy, but it sounds amazing too. As the moving drumsticks seem to patter away of their own accord, concealed speakers swell with a lush orchestral score that tells a tale of the colonial journeys on the rough seas from Europe to Australia. In particular, Sala largely drew inspiration from the diary of a Scottish sailor named James Bell on his 6-month journey Down Under. The score is adapted from Mozart and was performed by the Munich Chamber Orchestra. Each drum corresponds to a different instrument, whether it be clarinet, violin or percussion (to name a few). You’ll experience waves of different sounds depending on where you’re standing.2
2. It’s a Mozart remix
Sound familiar? The installation’s score is actually a rearrangement of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major K622. An iconic piece from the musical expression of the European Enlightenment. Mozart premiered the concerto in 1791, just 2 months before he died.
3. It was created especially with Sydney in mind
Anri Sala has chosen Observatory Hill to host The Last Resort for 3 reasons. It was the location of Australia’s first signal station and a site of encounter between white settlers and the traditional custodians of the land, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. It also remains the highest elevation point in Sydney. Sala’s artwork aims to draw new meaning from the historical site, using sculpture and sound to question the implications of European work after its journey to Australia. Sala thinks of the concerto like a message in a bottle that has been buffeted by the wind and waves, washing up as a changed object. And The Last Resort refers to Australia as its point of arrival.
4. Upside down is the right way up
When Anri Sala visited Australia in 2012, he immersed himself in the Australian culture and landscape. He especially wanted to learn more about Australia’s Indigenous and colonial past to shape the narrative of his artwork. He met with Aboriginal academics and knowledge-holders and, on a tour through the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, was inspired by the flying foxes hanging upside down from the trees. Hence why the snare drums are topsy-turvy.
5. Who is Anri Sala?
Anri Sala is a French-Albanian artist who has received international acclaim for his work. As well as sculpture and sound, he also dabbles in poetic video works, live performances and recordings. In 2013, Anri Sala was chosen to represent France in the German pavilion at the Venice Biennale. The pavilion-swapping was an acknowledgement of the countries’ enduring friendship. The Last Resort is the biggest outdoor art project Sala has undertaken.
You can visit the installation from 10am to 6pm daily (or until sunset at 7.30pm on Wednesdays) until 5 November. If you want to let the experts do the talking, experienced guides will host free talks daily at 11am and 3pm in the Rotunda. For more, visit What’s On.
The Last Resort is also just one of the temporary artworks you can expect to spot in the city throughout the year as part of Art & About Sydney. The Last Resort is a co-presentation with Kaldor Public Art Projects.