Swiss artist Zimoun has unveiled another captivating audiovisual installation, this time setting 1944 thin metal discs into rotational motion, with the help of small mechanical motors. ‘1944 prepared dc-motors, MDF panels 72 x 72cm, metal discs ø 8cm, 2020’, commissioned by Jaeger-LeCoultre as part of The Sound Maker celebration on the art of sound in watchmaking, was produced in collaboration with Retro Agency.
Different from his previous installations made out of cardboard, in this case, the sound is created by the friction of the metal discs on their base. Each metal disc rotates in its own individual cycle and rhythm. This results in complex visual and acoustic overlays and cyclical shifts. The resulting noise and visual effects are very lively and in constant change in their microstructures, reminding some of us of phenomena from nature.
All the motors are supplied with the same current. This would cause all motors to rotate at the same speed, theoretically. But practically, since all the wires on which the metal discs are placed on are handmade, each of these wires is slightly different. These differences let the rotations of the discs differ from each other and due to these slight variations, the discs move individually. Some lie flatter on the panel, others rotate faster. This creates a complex individuality and each element develops its own characteristics. This individuality affects both the visual and acoustic properties of this work. The simultaneous simplicity in function and the resulting complexity in behavior is a central particularity of Zimoun’s work.
The discs, all moving at different speeds, reflect the light in certain positions. This results in a kind of flickering, similar to the effect we know from water surfaces. “The discs seem to appear and dissolve again and it feels as if movements spread over the whole surface of the work and interact with each other. It shows us how we construct our alleged reality ourselves. We begin to relate things to each other and can recognize apparent interactions. In fact, these relationships and complex processes only occur in our minds,” explains Zimoun. Standing in front of the work, it feels almost digital, although at the same time there is a strong reference to the physical materials.
Zimoun develops and realizes his works together with his team of assistants in the studio in Bern, Switzerland. For more than 15 years now, Studio Zimoun has been following a strict recycling and minimal-waste policy, reusing the materials used over and over again to be manipulated, modified and reintroduced in new works. For the first time in use are the metal discs, which come from the Jaeger-LeCoultre production site. “We discovered this material during a visit to the Jaeger- LeCoultre workshops. I was immediately attracted by the beautiful roughness, the very thin texture and the visual variations of this material. I liked the idea of integrating into this new work a raw material that is normally used in the production of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s watches. After a series of tests and experiments in the studio, we decided on this type of material, its thickness and size,” says Zimoun.
Zimoun’s works continually embrace oppositional positions, such as the principles of order and chaos. Works may be arranged in a geometrical pattern or ordered and installed according to a system, yet they behave chaotically and act – within a carefully prepared framework of possibilities – in an uncontrolled manner as soon as they are mechanically activated. As if in a clinical study, the pattern and the systematic approach enable an overview, so that the chaos generated by the mechanical process can be better analyzed. Mass and individuality also belong among these oppositional positions, together with artificial vs. organic, or simplicity vs. complexity.
The works of Zimoun are located in different fields of the arts. On the one hand, his work is often very architecture-related, spatial and installative, with references to Minimalism in visual art, which is also evident in the simplicity, the structure of the works and the raw materials used. Also the immediacy and directness. On the other hand, next to the atmospheric characteristics of his work there is always the reference to sound and noise. Although Zimoun conceives of his installations also as compositions in a musical sense, he does not actively intervene in the development of their sound. He does not direct the mechanical systems implemented either in an analog manner or digitally, via a microcontroller or a computer, instead merely activating them by turning on or off their electricity supply. Zimoun sees the moment of activation and the dynamic of the materials themselves as a sculptural and performative approach and names the principle behind these works ‘primitive complexity’.
Furthermore, Zimoun’s work always has a generative component, as the exact states of his installations never repeat themselves and their microstructures are constantly changing and transforming. The materials themselves develop highly complex algorithms and often feel very lively and organic. “Working in the studio I often feel more like an explorer of things rather than as their inventor,” says Zimoun with regard to the development of his work.
“In my work, I do not try to transport specific associations, but rather to create atmospheric spaces and states that invite us to observe, think and reflect on various levels,” concludes the artist.