Step into the otherworldly Time No Longer by Anri Sala at the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern

"Time No Longer" by Anri Sala | Photo: Lawrence Knox; Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Weingarten Art Group

Experience the harmony of beauty and loneliness in the newest installation by Anri Sala, Time No Longer, now on view at Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern through Sunday, December 12, 2021.

Taking a step into the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern’s newest artwork, Time No Longer, one is immersed in shafts of light and shadow, echoes of melancholic woodwinds and a creeping sense of unease fueled by the massive multi-media installation from internationally renowned artist, Anri Sala.

The third artist installation to feature at the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, Time No Longer brings viewers into the cavernous subterranean interior of the former water reservoir, allowing them a 360-degree view of a projected film that features a turntable floating within a capsule in outer space, struggling to catch the groove again. As it gracefully searches and finds the record, music fills the immense space, echoing across the chamber.

“Time No Longer” by Anri Sala | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365Houston

Musical Echoes

The haunting music heard throughout the 13-minute piece that plays twice per viewing is what Sala calls, “an imaginary duet,” bringing together an artifact of history and a “musical intention” that was never realized.

When the stylus catches the groove, the record begins to play fragments of a movement, “The Abyss of the Birds,” from French composer Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. This work first premiered in 1941 at the Nazi prisoner-of-war camp where Messiaen was placed after being captured on the front lines of Verdun in the second World War. The piece, written only for the decrepit instruments that could be found and played at the camp, pops in and out as the needle bounces in zero gravity, allowing for the eerie echoes of a saxophone to fill the silence within the Cistern.

The saxophone portion recalls Ronald McNair, one of the first Black astronauts to fly in space and an accomplished saxophonist, who intended to bring his instrument and become the first person to record music in space. McNair tragically perished in the Challenger explosion on the very mission he intended to perform with his saxophone. Sala’s inclusion of the wistful sax helps to bridge these two eras and histories together in a moment of shared empathy and presence.

“Time No Longer” by Anri Sala | Photo: Lawrence Knox; Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Weingarten Art Group

Finding Hope in Isolation

Visitors to Time No Longer could hardly miss the sensations of isolation, loneliness, solitude and perhaps even disaster that are evoked in the artwork—themes that all of us have come to familiarize with during the past year.

But Sala also talks of an underlying theme of hope, represented in the turntable stylus that serves as the piece’s main character. Bouncing gracefully in the throes of zero gravity, the stylus is challenged by the impossibility of the task but finds a way to be able to achieve traction and create music. In this, the artist says, we find a hope for something coming back.

Within its themes of isolation, Time No Longer is a triumphant work that offers a contemplative experience that may help us better understand the difficult past year for the entire globe, as well as the specific challenges faced by Houstonians more recently.

Artist Anri Sala at the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365Houston

About the Artist & Venue

Anri Sala is an Albanian-born multi-media artist that constructs transformative, time-based works through the overlapping relationships between image, architecture, and sound, employing these elements to fold, upturn and question experience. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2019); Museo Tamayo, Mexico City (2017); the New Museum, New York (2016); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2014); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2012); Serpentine Gallery, London (2011); and others.

The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern was formerly the city’s drinking water reservoir, built in 1926. After springing an irreparable leak, the Cistern was closed and hidden away until its discovery in 2011 during a park revitalization project. Due to the historical and architectural significance of the space, Buffalo Bayou Park and the City of Houston worked together in taking over management of the site and providing a space for tours and public art installations.

Time No Longer by Anri Sala at Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern

  • Dates: On view daily through Sunday, December 12, 2021
  • Times: Select times available from Monday to Thursday 10am to 5pm; Friday and Sunday 10am to 6pm; Saturday 11:30am to 6pm
  • Location: Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, 105 Sabine Street, Houston, TX 77007
  • Parking: Free lot parking is available at the Cistern; street parking and additional lot parking is available in the surrounding area
  • Admission: Reservations required. $12; $8 for ages 9 to 17, 65 and up, and students with a valid ID. Free on Thursdays (reservations still required). For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Buffalo Bayou Park website.
“Time No Longer” by Anri Sala | Photo: Lawrence Knox; Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Weingarten Art Group

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A longtime Houstonian, Justin Jerkins keeps an eye out for all sorts of happenings in H-Town, including breweries, sports, concerts, must-see destinations and much more while serving as Editor-in-Chief of 365 Things to Do in Houston.