1/6: Adhãn by Haroon Mirza (2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale)

To celebrate the opening of the 2012 Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, which opened last Saturday, all this week I’ll be posting texts that I wrote for the catalogue of said exhibition. First up: Haroon Mirza’s piece that is represented with a video in Shenzhen, but in reality is a rather complex installation, as I’ve tried to describe.


Installation, 2009

The elaborate installations of artist Haroon Mirza analyze the formation of sound and noise as a cultural and social mechanism as much as a mechanical one. The various parts of the piece Adhãn build into a work that touches on the way music and noise produce and communicate meaning in context with other objects. The cultural results of these productions of meaning hold particular significance for the artist, especially (as in this case) the role they play in religious and secular society.

Created following a visit to Pakistan in 2007–8, Adhãn reflects the artist’s research into the “uneasy role music plays in the Islamic faith”,1 the title referring to the call to prayer performed by the Muezzin, an official in a mosque. The installation is made up of seemingly disparate objects with their workings and formative elements insistently exposed, as is common in Mirza’s work. Various old items of furniture support or become part of the process of the piece, including a long, low cupboard with integral lamp at one end. Next to the cupboard sits a radio tuned to static, whose aerial pokes up into the canopy of the lamp. The lamp flickers in tandem with music coming from a small TV set at the other end of the cupboard, causing the radio’s interference to modulate in sync with these pulses. The TV is broadcasting an acoustic session by musician Cat Stevens from 1971, who famously converted to Islam some years after the recording, changing his name to Yusuf Islam in the process, so creating a direct link to the recent history of the Islamic faith within the piece.

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