Originally published on this is tomorrow, June 2013.
Haroon Mirza’s second solo exhibition at Lisson Gallery features immersive, entangling installations. Using clicks, beats, and brilliant lights, he enchants with artworks designed to enthral and surprise. Mirza builds his installations within his own constructed spaces inside the gallery walls. Playing with the acoustics, he manipulates resonance and echoes, so that the sounds he creates have a physical impact.
For ‘Pavilion for Optimisation’ (2013) Mirza has assembled a soundproof reverberation chamber into which entrance is limited to one viewer at a time. On stepping inside the tiny space, a strip of piercing bright light that provides the only illumination is steadily extinguished as a rushing noise becomes increasingly intense. As the sound gets louder it eventually leaves the viewer standing alone in darkness and in silence. The effect is disorientating, terrifying but compelling. Something like the feeling of being dragged under a wave only to emerge completely dry and unharmed and ready to be sucked under again.
The rushing noise is later revealed to have been generated by a rather unglamorous construction set up around the back. A showerhead has been plumbed and fitted to the gallery wall and a microphone is positioned to pick up and amplify the noise of water dripping from the shower into the black dustbin just beneath. It is refreshing that Mirza is not afraid to incorporate these everyday objects into his work, and it comes as a nice surprise that such basic items can be used to such dramatic effect.
In the upstairs gallery, for ‘Adam, Eve, others and a UFO’ (2013), Mirza has prepared his space with strips of foam spikes to absorb reverberations and provide the ideal echo-free environment. A collection of speakers is arranged in a circle with wires connecting them to LEDs placed in the centre of the room. As the speakers emit their familiar beats and clicks, the LEDs illuminate to highlight the speakers that are contributing to the beat. The setup allows us to visualise the rhythmic movement of the sound around the room as the momentum builds up. The beats, snaps and clicks are engineered to have a unifying visual presence and effect.
While his materials often hark back to the vintage and embrace the simplistic, the sounds Mirza generates reflect the contemporary digital environment. His distorted noises are the musical equivalent of technical glitches, generated from interference between electronic devices or doctored mechanisms. They are organised into a disrupted rhythm creating interruptions and instability in his immersive environments.
Mirza has embraced the digital for this exhibition, creating an online collaborative remix project to accompany it. The artist’s original recordings are available as sound samples on a website at o-o-o-o.co.uk for producers to rearrange and rework. Two official remixes, made in collaboration with Jellyman (aka Dave from Django Django) and Factory Floor, have so far been released by The Vinyl Factory. Since the launch of the site, more remixes have been uploaded online. This expansive approach to exhibition making is contemporary and refreshing. It reflects our present day environment and encourages our experimentation and collaboration.