Buffalo Bayou Partnership is pleased to announce Time No Longer, a newly commissioned multimedia artwork by artist, Anri Sala (b. 1974 Tirana, Albania). The installation will occupy the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, a vast, subterranean reservoir on the edge of downtown Houston.

Time No Longer incorporates a film projected onto a translucent, 22 by 150-foot screen with a soundtrack emanating throughout the space. Visitors will encounter the work by making their way around the full perimeter of the 87,500-square-foot Cistern. The film depicts a weathered turntable floating in a space station, tethered only by its electric cord playing a vinyl record. There appears to be no human presence to listen to it, and an uneasy quiescence around it suggests it may be spinning in the aftermath of a catastrophe—a custodian of that absent humanity. With its own acrobatic intelligence, the tonearm moves from place to place on the record, the needle’s touch and rise resuming and ceasing its music. In a manner that seems not entirely at the mercies of gravity or chance, it continuously conducts itself. From its position in space, it observes 16 earthly sunrises and sunsets each day.

The turntable plays a new arrangement of French composer Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time (Abyss of the Birds) that draws on the unique history of the quartet’s composition. During World War II, Messiaen (1908–1992) was captured and incarcerated in Germany. While imprisoned he wrote Quartet for the End of Time, premiering it in 1941—with three fellow musician prisoners—to an audience of captives and guards. Scored only for instruments they could each play and find, this extraordinary piece of chamber music remains the most searingly haunting and memorable work composed through incarceration. Sala recognized in Messiaen’s elegiac piece not only a sense of overwhelming loneliness at a time when the world’s crises seemed insurmountable, but also the need to bring something—however fragile and soft-spoken—into that numbness.

Sala found a natural complement to this isolated clarinet in another remarkable musical event, the story of Ronald McNair’s saxophone. McNair, one of the world’s first Black astronauts, was also a musician who planned to play and record a saxophone solo on board the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. This would have been the first original piece of music recorded in space had not that journey been tragically curtailed. Sala felt that composing a saxophone part for Abyss of the Birds would subtly re-envisage a piece that was never played where it was intended, forming an imaginary duet between two instrumental voices.

Houston provides an appropriate setting for Time No Longer, Sala’s most ambitious project to date. It is both the origin and fulcrum of two endeavors at the extent of our vertical frontiers: one boring deep into the earth to extract its riches, another venturing upwards into improbable space exploration. For nine months, the Cistern’s underground chamber will become the dwelling place for a symbiosis steeped in suffering, but never bound by it.

The sound arrangement for Time No Longer is made in partnership with two of Sala’s long-term collaborators, sound designer Olivier Goinard and musician André Vida, as well as clarinetist Raphaël Sévère. Time No Longer is organized by Buffalo Bayou Partnership with curatorial and project management by Weingarten Art Group. Major support provided by Marian Goodman Gallery, Suzanne Deal Booth Cultural Trust, John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation, and [N.A!] Project.

Buffalo Bayou Partnership is the non-profit organization transforming and revitalizing Buffalo Bayou, Houston’s most significant natural resource. BBP has long been dedicated to presenting art projects along the bayou, working with local, national, and internationally recognized artists of all disciplines. 

Vimeo Links:

Anri Sala | Time No Longer — Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern