Seeing Sound

Physics, shamanism, artificial intelligence and astrology are listed among Haroon Mirza’s (b. 1977) inspirations. These ancient and modern disciplines come together in John Hansard Gallery’s Waves and Forms – a show that pushes the boundaries of the senses. The gallery space is filled with sound, light, electricity and water, setting the stage for investigations into the emotional and physical impact of waveforms.

The show asks questions such as: Can we ‘see’ noise? Dreamachine 2.0, created in collaboration with London-based artist Siobhan Coen, provides an answer. It is described as “a system to induce dreamlike states”, created in homage to a similar device by Brion Gysin, William S. Burroughs and Ian Sommerville. Red, green and blue lights flicker to the beat of corresponding sound waves. The combination evokes complex images in the mind, resulting in a deeply immersive and individual experience.

Mirza’s Solar Symphony sculptures continue this dialogue. The self-powering structures generate audio compositions in response to natural light. Commercial solar panels collide with LEDs and bicycle lights among an intriguing amalgam of speakers. The music changes in response to the sun – and electric lights glimmer to the rhythm.

The installations continue to navigate natural and digital realms. /\/\/\ /\/\/\ looks to the stars, interpreting the astrological sign Aquarius as a zigzag form. It translates the undulating movement of wave into three dimensions, incorporating video and audio. Skip_loop is a simulated view of the sea. It shows the animation on repeat for six seconds – the average time spent viewing an artwork in a museum. This tongue-in-cheek reference evokes scrolling through today’s social feeds.

Finally, audiences can be immersed in the Pavilion for Optimisation. The chamber is designed to create “maximum reverberation”, allowing visitors to hear a continuous singular note. The overall experience is transformative: opening up the boundaries of perception and heightening the senses.

Until 11 January. Find out more here.

Lead image: Haroon Mirza, /// ///, 2017. Installation view, Dancing with the Unknown, Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen, 2018 Courtesy: hrm199 and Nikolaj Kunsthal. Photographer: Per Wessel.