Making Waves With Haroon Mirza
Haroon Mirza is an artist whose work takes aim at the big questions - who we are and why we exist, enquiries that he conducts through a mixture of sound, electricity and sculpture. Occupying Browns Brook Street’s Immersive Room, Haroon tells us more about the work contained within it, titled The Wave Epoch.
Until 30th August, Haroon also takes over the Focus area downstairs, where music from his newly-established label OUTPUTS combines with scent by Timothy Han to expand his creative universe around the flagship. Read on to learn more about one of today’s most exciting and experimental artists.
The Browns Brook Street Focus area, a collaboration between Haroon Mirza Timothy Han, OUTPUTS and Harriet Clapham.
Can you describe the work housed in the Browns Brook Street Immersive room?
It’s an installation of an album length video based on a performance called The Wave Epoch. It consists of a 35 minute film on a screen, an animated chandelier, anechoic foam and a piece of guttering from which a scent created by Timothy Han seeps out.
How would you explain the concept?
It’s an investigation into the relationship between consciousness and matter – the question of how we reconcile that our individual experience, which is non-tangible, arises from a universe of physical stuff.
What do you want people to feel or consider when they step inside the immersive room and experience the work?
It’s a multisensory experience - a combination of live electrical signals, Timothy Han’s scent, spacy soundscapes, poetry and the simulation of something quite psychedelic.
Can you describe the process of making it? Where did you begin, how did you develop the idea and how did you know when it was finished?
It’s work that evolved over a few years starting with a residency that Jack Jelfs and I did at CERN, Geneva, home to the Large Hadron Collider. We invited our collaborators (GAIKA, Jess Barter and others) over and imagined ourselves from a future civilization, rediscovering CERN as an archaeological site where we would perform shamanic rituals. It was initially a performance with moving image and music but ended up as a concept album. The idea being that The Wave Epoch is the era we have emerged in post-COVID.
How does the work interact with the wider Browns Brook Street building and environment? What does it mean to you to show it in this context?
Via our new label OUTPUTS, we have curated the music downstairs in the Focus area, compiling music from the roster of artists we’re working with. The store is like a journey that begins the moment you enter and builds to the installation upstairs, where the Immersive Room represents a culmination of how the label focuses on collaborative audio-visual projects.
Can you tell us about how your career began and how you got to where you are now?
I studied art, then design, then art again. Soon after I began working with Lisson Gallery. I was lucky enough to win some prestigious prizes, such as the Silver Lion for Most Promising Artist at the 54th Venice Biennale, which meant that the ensuing several years were a treadmill of production and shows.
"The Wave Epoch" in the Immersive Room at Browns Brook Street.
How would you describe what you do and the kind of work that you make?
It’s a very diverse, “adisciplinary” practice with my primary medium being electricity. It’s collaborative and research based. It’s not easy to define or document. In fact it’s almost a resistance against (social) media technologies because you have to be present with the work to really “get it”.
You often work with collaborators, including Timothy Han, whose scent forms part of the exhibition. How do you choose your collaborators and what does the process of collaboration look like?
I try to work with people whose work I admire and who bring something that I couldn’t possibly contribute myself.
You’ve also worked with London artist and musician GAIKA, and your work is often focused around sound. For you, is there a difference between sound and music in your work?
No. Edgard Varese would say “music is organised sound” (or even a lack thereof, according to John Cage.)
Can you tell us about your experimental label OUTPUTS? When and why did you start this and what kind of releases can we expect?
I had asked Nik’s advice about what label we should release The Wave Epoch on. Like others, she recommended going DIY but in addition offered to help do it and potentially also release stuff from my archive. When we started to talk to artists they all wanted to do something new. We felt that the distinctions between disciplines had diluted enough to create a space to start publishing more experimental, adisciplinary projects - so we set up the label.
What would be your dream project for the future and who would you choose to collaborate with?
I would love to get some past collaborators together to redefine opera. People like Julie Cunningham, Okkyung Lee, Shiva Feshareki, Wayne McGregor, Nik Void, GAIKA, Sarah-Jane Lewis, Osman Yusefzada, Gareth Pugh, Siobhan Coen, Jack Jelfs – I could go on for a while here…
"The Wave Epoch" will be on show in the Immersive Room from 20th July 2021 - 18th October 2021.
In Focus: OUTPUTS & Timothy Han will be on show in the Browns Brook Street Focus Area from 20th July 2021 - 7th September 2021.
Interview by Georgia Graham
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