On Wednesday 16 December 2020 Ikon hosted the world premiere of year zero (2020), a new audiovisual artwork by British artist Haroon Mirza.
year zero is a new commission by Ikon, with Art Fund support. The work is part of Mirza’s ‘modular opera’ series, composed by him and realised in collaboration with musicians, a singer and designer. Produced during the COVID-19 lockdown, it is inspired by the widely circulated smartphone footage of Italians singing from their balconies and windows at the start of the pandemic, their small but rousing balcony performances capturing a collective sense of optimism and unity.
Using sci-fi to navigate a new global order, Mirza in his ‘modular opera’ 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.
Part recital, part voice experiment, year zero is performed by vocalist Sarah-Jane Lewis and accompanied by an electronic score performed by musician Jack Jelfs. Among other elements, the work also features a performance by Alessandro Ravasio, a musician based in Bergamo, the Italian city most severely impacted by the first-wave of the pandemic.
The central element of the work documents an evening performance by Lewis in the residential courtyard where Mirza’s studio is located. This recital was programmed by Mirza’s studio (hrm199) for his neighbours in the building during the UK’s second national lockdown in November 2020. Filmed by both Mirza and audience members from neighbouring apartments, the footage focuses on Lewis who wears a costume of gold lamé and electric blue body paint designed by Osman Yousefzada for a previous performance at the Lahore Biennale 2020.
For this commission I was somehow compelled to think about a very local community and how we can connect to another community elsewhere through music, performance and storytelling. I saw it as an opportunity to both develop the fictional narrative of my modular opera but also bring something meaningful to being at home. As I developed the piece it became very much about breathing – the unconscious process we do at all times yet take for granted. Breathing has been the focus of so much attention in 2020.
Haroon Mirza participates simultaneously in Ikon’s exhibition Faster Than Ever (4 December 2020 – 2 May 2021), created as a result of the challenges faced by the gallery due to the pandemic. year zero follows Mirza’s major retrospective exhibition at Ikon in 2018 and also builds on the ongoing collaboration between Mirza and Osman, whose first solo exhibition was held at Ikon, also in 2018.
Ikon’s presentation of year zero is supported by Cafe Oto, Media Partner.
Ikon’s public programme features a number of events including a panel discussion organised in response to year zero.
year zero will be available via Ikon’s YouTube account until 14 February 2021.