As much a documentary work as an artist’s book, this volume was published on the occasion of Anri Sala’s installation representing France at the 55th Venice Biennale. It explores into the turbulent history of a piece of music, serves as a research tool and provides a point of entry into the issues the artist was adressing in the process of creating Ravel Ravel Unravel.
Under the title Ravel Ravel, Anri Sala projects two films showing the hands of two pianists playing the Concerto for the Left Hand, which Maurice Ravel composed for German pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm during the first world war. The two versions of the Concerto begin at different moments, gradually come into sync and then split again. This temporal divide produces a perceptible sense of space. In the side rooms of the German pavilion of the Biennale, under the title Unravel, a film shows a DJ mixing the two versions of the pianists to attempt, by separating them, to restore their initial unity.
Several texts propose a range of perspectives that complement and respond to one another and restore the complexity of this artistic project: historical testimonies of Maurine Ravel, Paul Wittgenstein and pianist Marguerite Long, a close friend of Ravel; fictional texts by Wittgenstein specialist Alexander Waugh and Jean Echenoz, author of the novel Ravel; theoretical texts by Dana Samuel on John Cage and anechoic chambers and by Hans Brofeldt on left-hand musical technique; essays by legal historian Laurent Pfister, musicologist and philosopher Peter Szendy and Christine Macel, curator of the French pavilion.
Images of archives and illustrations, initial sketches by the artist and stills of the films offer fertile collisions of the visual and the temporal.
The design of the book also contributes to feeling the movement of the different musical tempi. Pages are punctuated by zones of black vertical vibrations that move as if the fold of the book was mobile.