Ikon presents the most comprehensive exhibition of work by Haroon Mirza (b. 1977, London) in the UK to date, running 30 November 2018 – 24 February 2019. The survey includes past works and new, previously unseen pieces, filling Ikon’s exhibition spaces with moving imagery, sculptural installation and electronic sound. Involving audio-visual sampling, sometimes through collaboration with other artists, Mirza’s practice is characterised by its sheer physical impact and emotive resonance. His understanding of human perception - what and how we see and hear - is combined with countless possible meanings, testing the limits of what we can experience, and what we think we know. Mirza’s early works often mix old-fashioned furniture and electrical equipment, including radios, TVs and gramophones, synthesised with looping film footage and sound to arrive at automated orchestral results. In his work Taka Tak (2008), Mirza features a video of a Pakistani street food chef chopping ingredients with two spatulas - like drumsticks, at the heart of a high energy composition - while flashing fairy lights, a turntable and a spinning Sufi statuette provide kinetic accompaniment. Taking inspiration from daily life, this work, and the artist’s wider fascination with music, stems from personal experience: “I was brought up Muslim” Mirza explains, “in certain regimes [in Islam] music is sort of frowned upon and related to things like infidelity and other terrible things if you listen to or engage with music.” For the artist sound (and music and noise) is a medium for challenging dogma – not only religiously but also artistically. Subtly questioning the faith required to view art as self-contained and transcendent - art for art’s sake - Mirza’s output also explores the validity of scientific knowledge, hallucinogenic experience and prehistoric understandings. Examining these belief models, and their inherent complexities, Mirza questions our desire and relentless pursuit for an ultimate truth.
Proposing a minimal approach to installation, circles – loops and cycles - are ubiquitous in Mirza’s recent work. At times symbolic, they undermine notions of narrative or teleology, giving rise to a more ambient aesthetic in line with the fluid informality of contemporary art spaces. This was epitomised in his work The National Apavilion of Then and Now at the 2011 Venice Biennale, an architectural structure that referred to its context whilst being abstract in the extreme. Lined with grey sound-insulating pyramidal foam, The National Apavilion of Then and Now is a chamber in which neither light nor sound is reflected. At its centre, suspended from the ceiling is a halo-like circle of white LED lights which get increasingly bright, accompanied by a crescendo of an electronic buzzing sound.
Other works similarly explore the possibility of the visual and the acoustic as one singular aesthetic form. Chamber for Horwitz: Sonakinatography Transcriptions in Surround Sound (2015) takes inspiration from LA-based artist Channa Horwitz’s (1932 - 2013) systematic colour schemes on graph paper, translating sound into configurations. Comprised of a ring of LEDs, speakers and pyramidal foam panels, Chamber for Horwitz immerses us in Mirza’s composition of light and sound. This is an installation that the audience occupies, with their preconceptions and other particularities, and so the experience is not (and cannot be) a direct translation of the artist’s gesture. Mirza explains: “I don’t wish to make any demands on someone present with the work. If one spends time they will hear and see more. If one thinks and delves then ideas, concepts, methodology, points of reference and narrative will hopefully emerge but that’s not something I can or wish to control.”
VenueIkon Gallery, Birmingham
Address1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace, Birmingham, West Midlands,
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