Mumbai

Buzz is the word

The interplay between organic life and modern technology is the running theme in much of Zimoun’s work. —Photo: Special Arrangement  

Inside the Special Project Space — a small one-storey building tucked away in the back garden of the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum — visitors are confronted by a loud buzz. The sound — reminiscent of an angry beehive, or the frenzy of an ant-hill someone just stepped on — comes from a large structure that occupies most of the main room. It’s an uneven wall of identical cardboard boxes, each featuring a cotton ball dangling from a DC motor (a machine that converts electrical energy into mechanical power). This minimal installation, with each box as a simple, mechanical ‘instrument’, somehow creates an organic, chaotic orchestra that evokes the tone of experimental films like Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (1982).

Perhaps it’s a commentary on life in a modern industrial society; or just a reflection of the age-old battle between order and chaos: anarchic life and static systems. “I’m intrigued by simple systems to generate and study complex behaviours in sound and motion — the generation and degeneration of patterns,” explains Swiss artist Zimoun, who created the installation titled ‘80 Prepared DC-Motors, Cotton Balls, Cardboard Boxes’. “It’s the interplay of both: the mass and the individuality; the order and the chaos; and the artificiality and the organic. It’s some kind of an examination of simplicity and complexity at the same time. That might sound like a dichotomy, but these things seem often to be quite close.”

Part of a whole

The sound sculpture is currently on display at the museum as a part of the Sound Reasons Festival V, a music festival for sound art, contemporary jazz and electronic music that will feature performances in four Indian cities. In a second room at the Special Project Space, festival organiser Ish Shehrawat (Ish S) has set up his own audio-visual installation titled ‘Faulty scales can weigh you correctly / A moth and a room’. But it is the work by Zimoun that really captures your attention and stays in your mind long after you have left the building.

The Bern artist doesn’t consider what he does pure sound art, even though he does look at the installations as musical compositions. For him, the visual aesthetic of the work, its architecture, and how it transforms the space are equally important elements. “Since I was a kid, I was always active in the fields of music on one hand, as well as in various visual practices on the other,” he says. “In the work I am doing today all these interests merged into one practice. What you hear is what you see.”

A minimalist approach

The 39-year-old autodidact refuses to name any direct influences, though the philosophy of John Cage and the aesthetics of early minimalism are key touch points. The influence of minimalism is obvious, not just in the simple materiality and unadorned architecture of his installations, or the repetition of patterns that forms the basis of his sonic structures. It is also apparent in titles that generally just list the materials used to construct the work. Zimoun has no intention of providing the audience cues or a helping hand when it comes to reading his works. “I have no specific idea from my side of how to look at it, it’s more about creating a situation, a moment, a room, without a specific defined duration,” he says. “Ideally, I myself as creator, as well as the visitors, are able to get inspired — somehow activated — by the works and start to make his/her own connections, associations and discoveries on different, individual levels.”

Links in the armour

The interplay between organic life and modern technology forms a running theme through much of Zimoun’s work. The installation at the Special Project Space could be evoking the hum of an industrial factory, the drone of a busy marketplace, or the jungle symphony of insect sounds. Despite the industrial material and electro-mechanical nature of his creations, much of Zimoun’s oeuvre can be seen as an abstract exploration of the beauty of nature. “It’s similar to an abstract painting of nature,” he says. “The association, the process happening in each single brain, the individual activations are somehow completing the pieces on individual levels. I try to develop very simple mechanical systems which allow complex behaviours in sound or motion; simple mechanical elements which allow a “living” behaviour, generating and degenerating patterns, textures and forms. In some pieces, each single element can do this on its own, in some other pieces this happens through the mass, the multiplication and the interlocking of many small sounds and movements.”

In his spare time, Zimoun runs Leerraum [ ], a publishing platform he founded along with graphic designer Marc Beekhuis in 2003. Focusing on artists who develop works based on reductive principles, Leerraum [ ] functions as a record label for sound works, retailing limited edition CDs and multi-channel DVDs. If the works on display at the Sound Reasons Festival V interest you, visit the website:www.leerraum.chwhich features several sample works by Zimoun and many others that showcase the cutting edge of minimal sound art.

Sound Sculpture by Zimoun - Sound Reasons Festival V is ongoing till November 30 at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum.

The author is a freelancer writer

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 10:16:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/Buzz-is-the-word/article16667864.ece

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