Zimoun

Art Basel: Zimoun's sound art of tomorrow

People

At the heart of the “future of audio” are people – inspired individuals who dare to give shape to their creative vision and artistic imagination. Decision makers who prefer to reach their audiences and customers through great audio. Audio lovers who work relentlessly on innovative projects, who redefine and recreate sound experiences that touch the very souls of their listeners. “People” is dedicated to all those musicians, artists, engineers, producers, decision makers, owners and audio designers who fill and shape our world with sensational sound.

During Art Basel, Swiss artist Zimoun is putting his latest innovative sound installation on display. We spoke with him about what visitors should expect and how a successful partnership between the art world and the business world might look.

  • Author: Simon E. Fuchs
  • Photos: DJ Marketing Communication Ltd.
  • Video: Sennheiser

It's impossible to ignore Zimoun's work. Sometimes, it’s the uncontrolled sound of a tarp blowing in the wind, at other times, it's the noise made by thousands of small drops as they burst into steam on a hot surface.

At Sennheiser's invitation, artist Zimoun has developed a new piece of art, which will be shown for the first time at Art Basel in Basel. During Art Basel, the artist is inviting visitors to stick their heads into a new dimension of sound. At Ostquai, the rustling sound of countless paper bags can be head inside a wooden-clad shipping container. A small motor hidden inside each bag drives a wand and a ball with the sound being created by interaction with the bag.

317 prepared dc-motors, paper bags, shipping container
Zimoun 2016

He is the first sound artist to demonstrate the possibilities of the "Future Audio Artist Program"

Observers are surrounded by a large number of small sound generators, making possible the full immersion into a three-dimensional sound composition. Each audible sound is produced in the space in real-time. The large number of sound generators, each of which operates independently, creates a highly complex overall sound that can never be repeated identically.

Despite the consciously chosen simplicity, the system shows organic characteristics and complex behaviors that create an apparent vibrancy. Thousands of small paper sounds -- crunching, murmuring, rustling and crackling -- develop and meld into an all-encompassing audio space. At the same time, the creation of each sound is visible because all of the sounds are created by the moving material. We hear what we see and the audible becomes visible.

„I am interested in systems that can create complex sound structures.“

One the one hand, the installation is very concrete: The space is filled with motorized paper bags. On the other hand, they also embody a large abstraction, allowing for -- and even provoking -- disparate associations. The artist deliberately leaves open these varied possible perceptions by limiting the names of his works to a list of the materials that have been used.

Like all of Zimoun's sound sculptures, this installation is also based on the interplay of mechanics and movement. His installations are graceful works of poetic playfulness, the result of repetition and subtle deviation. His artwork at the Ostquai, too, will demonstrate the combination of routine and happenstance. The world of Swiss installation and sound artist Zimoun is based on mechanical systems that bring simple every day or industrial materials into movement so that they create sound. Doing so puts on display the sound properties of the materials as well as their dynamic characteristics.

Zimoun has an interest in simplicity as it relates to function, aesthetics and materials, but also in the complexity of movement and sound that can be created by simple systems.

Zimoun, which installations are your preparing for Art Basel? I'm preparing a new soundinstallation in a container which will be perched on stilts. Visitors can peer into the installation by sticking their entire upper body through a hole in the bottom of the container, providing them with an immersive sound experience. Among the most interesting things about this installation are the various sound properties exhibited by the thin, rough, brown paper - the rustling, the murmur and the crackle. But I'm also fascinated by the simplest mechanical systems which, despite their simplicity, can create great complexity.

A "Unique Sound Experience" and an immersive sound experience

What are you trying to express with this installation? On the one hand, the installation is very concrete: The space is filled with motorized paper bags. On the other hand, they also embody a large abstraction, allowing for - and even provoking - disparate associations. I am interested in systems that can create complex sound structures. These sounds are continuously developing. It creates an apparent vibrancy that looks almost organic, even though it has been created with industrial and simple materials.

Why did you decide to become a sound artist? My work addresses both sound and composition, the physical creation of sound through materials, but also space and its transformation. All of these elements are brought together in my installations: We hear what we see and the audible becomes visible. At the same time, sound does not have a greater importance to me than the visual. For me it's the same – it's just perceived using different senses.

Innovative Sound Art at the Sennheiser Lounge in the Collectors Lounge at Art Basel

What do you find especially fascinating about sound art? I do not differentiate between the visual arts and sound art – instead I view the different aspects of the work as being part of the whole. I am fundamentally uninterested in classifying things by categories and they have no significance for me.

Where does your inspiration come from? My inspirations and interests are extremely varied. They range from nature to societal peculiarities – from architecture and space to systems, methods and structures. They range all the way to absurdities, the contrasts between simplicity and complexity. They stretch from unspectacular materials and cosmic expanses all the way to diverse areas of research and natural sciences. I'm also interested in arts, philosophies, perceptions and illusions.

The Search for Inspiring Sound

Some of your works evoke rain drops and thunder. What role does the sound of nature play in your art? In my work, the physical sound created in real time through the material itself is paramount. It's not a reproduction of sound, but rather the continual production of it through the material that interests me. The resulting complexity in the constantly changing microstructures of the sounds is often also evocative of the kinds of form familiar to us in nature. Examples like the pitter-patter of rain or the sound of wind blowing through a field come to mind.

„Participating in this Sennheiser project is a great honor and an exciting challenge for me.“

How important are projects with companies like Sennheiser for you and for the art world in general? Participating in this Sennheiser project is an honor and an exciting challenge for me. What seems important to me about collaborations like this is that there is genuine interest in the art on the part of the company and that it isn't just used for marketing purposes or even manipulated in that direction. What seems important to me about collaborations like this is that there is genuine interest in the art on the part of the company and that it isn't just used for marketing purposes or even manipulated in that direction.

What is your vision for the future of audio? I think a lot is going to happen in the area of technology during the next 10 to 20 years. Virtual reality will likely meld even more strongly with reality.But I can't yet really imagine what this will mean exactly in the area of sound and the possibilities for composing and consuming sound. This vision of the future raises a lot of interesting questions.