Balance is at the crux of Haroon Mirza’s multimedia works: the balance between light and dark, between form and context and the sensory balance between sound and vision. While not initially obvious on entering the quiet, light-filled space at The Hepworth Wakefield, these elements are to be discovered by the viewer through agents of familiarity and displacement in the artist’s new body of work.
The award-winning artist was born in London in 1977 – the same year David Bowie’s single, Sound and Vision was released from the album Low - itself, an example of juxtaposing soundtracks between electronic instruments and lyrics. Bowie’s own experimentation, amongst other pioneers in the Sixties and Seventies, to generate electric signals into new ranges of sound is a compelling link between this era of music and Mirza’s contemporary art practice.
Visitors are invited to don headphones to complement their experience in the two exhibition spaces. A practically default go-to in a technologically-bound twenty-first century, its purpose immerses viewers into a pulsating current of electricity generated by cables of strobe lighting diodes that surround a selection of key works appropriated by Mirza from The Hepworth Wakefield’s collection.
Haroon Mirza - The Hepworth Wakefield
In the first gallery space, viewers are confronted with a painting by Philip Reinagle (Wakefield Bridge and Chantry Chapel, 1793), an assemblage of sculpture, including a reclining figure by Henry Moore and a trio of empty plinths, previously used to exhibit works by Barbara Hepworth - each paired with their own emitting light in red, yellow, green and blue.
The electricity, which can only be heard by using the headphones, enhances the interpretation of Mirza’s juxtaposition between institutional objects that possess their own individual loaded energy with that of his technical extensions. The simple addition of light creates an aura around the works – a protective force field whose soundtrack is revealed to the unseen eye by the acoustic feed – elevating their status into new contextual realms. The sound, akin to conventional music once viewers are accustomed to its electrical pulses, becomes almost addictive in nature; viewers try to locate rhythm with individual work - its intermittency commands attention as well as a sense of emergency that is simply mesmeric. The cables of light in its informal and formal state guide visitors around the installations that leads to the darker second gallery space.
The same light cables in their primary colours are installed directly onto the walls, flexed into shapes reminiscent of the trapezoidal peaks of the David Chipperfield-designed building, where the exhibition is housed. On one wall sound insulation protects an area where an electrical current sourced from the River Calder’s weir via a hand-crafted antenna – adjacent to the gallery– is transmitted; bridging the interior and exterior energy to an impossible harmony.
Mirza’s curatorial concern and subsequent ability to use a variety of objects and harmonise them through the language of energy creates a dynamic and accessible aesthetic - a balancing act between object, appropriation and interpretation. His minimal execution only invites greater curiosity and discovery by way of sensory seduction.
Bowie's lyrics asked, 'don't you wonder sometimes ‘bout sound and vision' - an energy that transcends time to the present day. Mirza responds with a visual and acoustic environment of wonder that will have visitors engaging with an institution in a way they never knew they could, affirming sound and vision is nothing without thought.
Haroon Mirza at The Hepworth Wakefield runs to 29th September 2013. Entry to the gallery is free and includes access to the permanent collection of Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures - visit The Hepworth Wakefield for further information.
The Calder - a new contemporary art space - was launched by The Hepworth Wakefield last month and features the entire body of Youth works by international British artist, Roger Hiorns for its inaugural exhibition. The nineteenth century former textiles mill that adjoins the main gallery is an exciting new platform for contemporary art in the North of England and will host an influential programme of exhibitions and events annually.
The Hepworth Wakefield