Events, Objects, Sound
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Zimoun: Volume – 294 prepared dc-motors, cork balls and cardboard boxes


Zimoun’s kinetic sound installations hardly need introduction. Ever since the immaculate documentation of his work first surfaced a couple of years ago, the Swiss artist’s elegant mass assemblies of mechanical dc-motors, wires, tubes and cardboard and the complex sound textures they generate have been subject of numerous international exhibitions and a lot more glowing reviews. Lofty descriptions however can’t quite capture the immersive quality of Zimoun’s installations, you have to experience them for yourself – if you are in the New York area between now and March 10th, you still can.

Volume, Zimoun’s first solo exhibition in New York, is curated by Laura Blereau and Steven Sacks and currently on view at bitforms, a gallery located in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Exploring the intersection of art and technology for more than a decade bitforms represents some of the most influential practitioners today. One of them: Zimoun.

294 prepared dc-motors, cork balls, cardboard boxes 41x41x41cm, Volume’s centerpiece, is part of Zimoun’s current series of installations involving prepared dc-motors and cardboard boxes. And like most of the previous iterations it is site-specific: “Based on the size of the gallery I decided to build a space within a space,” Zimoun tells CAN in an email (while already setting up his next installation at the Nam June Paik Art Center in Seoul, South Korea). “You can walk around it as well as enter it through an entrance. The sound experience changes along the way.” The massive sound chamber that fills the gallery almost entirely is constructed out of 294 of Zimoun’s prepared cardboard boxes, each being slightly displaced. “The pattern emerged naturally when I built the structure. An intentional play of chance and balance, if you will.” Each box unit has a dc-motor with a wire attached. Instead of the ping-pong ball that was fixed to the end of each wire in other set-ups Zimoun now has a ball of cork drum against the cardboard. “A very homogeneous combination,” he says. “The cork balls are very light and they sound a lot softer.”

The strength of Zimoun’s work is not only the striking combination of aesthetic clarity, material simplicity and acoustic complexity. It is the sparks of individuality that flare within a stringent grid of countless identical components in monotonous motion. While all the cardboard boxes are of the same size and the motors of the same kind, the subtle variations in length and angle of the attached wires results in a wide range of individual behaviours and sound signatures. “Each motor does its own thing,” says Zimoun. “And together they generate a dynamic sound of exquisite intricacy from what is essentially a very simple system.” Go see it! Go hear it!

Volume can be viewed at bitforms gallery (529 West 20th Street, 2nd floor, Chelsea, Manhattan) until March 10th. For the duration of the show, the gallery’s project room on the 6th floor also features four mechanical works by the artist and a video.

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  • Ru

    I really find Zimoun’s work very derivative of decades of sound installations. Its over hyped in my view mainly I think by their incessant pr machine. It’s extremely well documented, no question about it but I think the work is less spectacular than the quality of the documentation. But that’s only my opinion.

  • Quality of the documentation is important. How else can we communicate these ideas online? I’m not in a place with much sound art to see in person. Their documentation makes me want to experience it in person, and seek out more.

  • 0rel

    Wonderful… So simple, yet effective!