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Ikon awarded Art Fund grant for new commission by artist Haroon Mirza

Haroon Mirza & Jack Jelfs at CERN, Photographer Sophia Bennett. Courtesy hrm199

Ikon is delighted to be awarded an Art Fund Small Project Grant to commission a new digital artwork, titled year zero, by Haroon Mirza, as part of his ongoing ‘modular opera’. This ‘missing’ chapter consists of a film featuring performers singing a new text, and playing music composed by the artist, from the windows of their homes. Mirza’s inspiration is the widely circulated smartphone footage of communities in Italy, singing from their balconies and windows at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, their small but rousing balcony performances capturing a collective sense of optimism and unity.

Haroon Mirza’s recent exhibition at Ikon was a highlight in our gallery programme. Covid-19 has since shifted our focus outdoors and into virtual space, where necessity is embraced as a source of inventiveness by artists and audiences alike. This impulse is epitomised by Haroon’s new operatic project, engendering a sense of community paradoxically through our shared experience of locked-down isolation. Music is the unlocking key. 

Jonathan Watkins, Director, Ikon Gallery

Using sci-fi to navigate a new global order, Mirza’s digital opera explores the ‘rebirth’ of a shaman from the Peruvian Amazon basin; the genesis of a viral contagion – possibly extra-terrestrial in origin – coinciding with a new astronomical era; DNA-laden test tubes launched into space to preserve human life; and the genetic development of a new intergalactic species by scientists. It is a characteristically ambitious project that could not be more timely, as Mirza focuses on two central narrative elements; a pandemic causing a state of lockdown in major cities globally and a shaman reconnecting with natural forces and ancient practices that settle humanity into a new defining era.

Mirza’s text and song alternates between various singing styles, part recital, part voice experiment, alongside a new electronic composition, performed by musician and frequent collaborator Jack Jelfs. The performances accompany a film incorporating smartphone recordings, screen capture and ‘dashcam’ style footage of quiet residential streets, each reflecting different perspectives on the world during this time of crisis.

Haroon Mirza’s year zero is commissioned by Ikon with Art Fund support.


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