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Haroon Mirza

reality is somehow what we expect it to be

30 November 2018 — 24 February 2019

This is the most comprehensive exhibition of work by Haroon Mirza in the UK to date, filling Ikon’s exhibition spaces with moving imagery, sculptural installation and electronic sound. Involving smart sampling, sometimes through collaboration with other artists, Mirza’s practice overall is characterised by a knowing eclecticism and sheer physical impact. His (mis)understanding of the nature of human perception – of what and how we see and hear – is demonstrated and combined with countless possibilities of meaning, and so his aesthetic proposition is more to do with messages received than those transmitted, circumscribed by our constitutions, testing the limits of what we can experience and what we think we know.

Born in London in 1977, Haroon Mirza studied at Goldsmiths’ College and Chelsea College of Art and Design. He has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad and was awarded the Silver Lion for a Promising Young Artist at the 2011 Venice Biennale. Early works often mix old-fashioned furniture and electrical equipment, including radios, TVs and gramophones, synthesised with looping film footage and sound to arrive at robotic orchestral results. Taka Tak (2008) for example, features Mirza’s video of a Pakistani street food chef chopping ingredients with two spatula’s, like drumsticks, at the heart of a high energy composition, while flashing fairy lights, a turntable and spinning Sufi statuette provide kinetic accompaniment.

An_Infinato (2009), from Mirza’s Optical Sound series, problematises the possibility of the visual and acoustic as one singular aesthetic form. It combines a readymade assemblage, involving a piano keyboard, LED light circle and galvanised bin, with a looping video excerpt of swarming bats from Jeremy Deller’s Memory Bucket (2003) and off-cuts from a 16mm film by Guy Sherwin (Cycles, 1972/77), back-projected onto a screen.

Mirza has been exploring a more minimal approach to installation, and has become less inclined to use found objects. This tendency was epitomised at the 2011 Venice Biennale by The National Apavilion of Then and Now, an architectural structure that referred to its context while being abstract in the extreme. Lined with grey sound-insulating pyramidal foam, the Apavilion is an anechoic chamber in which neither light nor sound is reflected. At its centre, suspended from the ceiling is a circle of white LED lights, a halo-like symbol of heavenliness, of spiritual perfection. After a period of total darkness, the LEDs get increasingly bright, accompanied by a crescendo of an electronic buzzing sound – our sensory perceptions affirming our vitality – then to abruptly stop, plunging the room back into darkness until the cycle starts again.

Circles – loops and cycles – are ubiquitous in Mirza’s work. Sometimes symbolic, and often inherent in the materials and objects he uses, on the whole they undermine ideas of straightforward narratives, and resolution, and so give rise to a more ambient aesthetic. His Chamber for Horwitz: Sonakinatography Transcriptions in Surround Sound, made in 2015, is another case in point. Inspired by LA-based artist Channa Horwitz (1932–2013), best known for her systematic colour schemes on graph paper, translating sound into configurations that seem to anticipate digital style, it is a ring of LEDs, speakers and pyramidal foam panels that we enter to be immersed in the mix of light and sound that Mirza has composed.

The exhibition is supported by The Ampersand Foundation, The Arts Club, Lisson Gallery and the Ikon Investment Fund.

A new Haroon Mirza limited edition, priced £500, is available to purchase from Ikon Shop.

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