The first thing you notice is the sound: a mechanically persistent, yet sonically sweet orchestra of muffled pitter-pats. It’s a subtle introduction: the circuitous repetition and intentional regularity of the noise take a few minutes to register. The effect is initially so ambient, so close to the near constant aural din we intake at every moment, you could miss it. Upon entering Bitforms Gallery’s second-floor Chelsea space, however, the almost-ceiling-height wall of cardboard assures: you’ve entered some other place all together. Bern-based artist Zimoun’s Volume re-contextualizes material as much it does sound: Bitforms’ cards for the show feature crisply cut squares of the same cardboard that forms the room-like structure. Holding a piece of the same, ubiquitous material that forms pseudo-walls of the structure reconfigure scale. To hold a piece of the same material that makes up the installation Zimoun presents sensations and substances we are familiar with but flipped and inverted. Through the use of tiny motors whose simple motion bring to life a swinging wood ball, Volume presents an environment that heightens our awareness. Each element takes on a new kind of presence, as details of the stuff of the everyday are organized in a different system. The walls are made of the same material waiting to be taken out to the bin on the floor of my apartment, yet: standing inside the U-shaped formation presents an unfamiliar sensation out of overly familiar substance. I first came across Zimoun’s work in the context of Bitforms’ booth at PULSE Miami, where the gallery showcased a work of similar concept, if different effect. Rather than a free-standing structure, 121 "cardboard elements" with moving motors were attached to the wall.
The wonky grid of prepared buzzes and pulses, with constant motion of the mini motors that spin the paper, forms in a dance of different directions. The work doesn’t swallow you up in the same all-encompassing sense that Volume does, but both pieces inspire a similar arresting seduction. Perhaps it’s the purity of form, the simplicity of motion, the reassuring functionality of the mechanics. Zimoun’s work is viscerally experiential: there’s an impressiveness to ordinary things functioning in unison that transforms into something minutely extraordinary.
Volume takes cues from architecture and design, paying precise attention to form through industrial materials. With the kinetic quality of the motor-powered spheres, and the spatial effects of the large-scale installation, we enter the extreme experientiality of Volume with heightened awareness. Zimoun presents a work that is minimalist in its thinking and construction, yet spectacular in effect.
Images: Installation shot of Zimoun's Volume, 2011. Courtesy of bitforms gallery; Installation shot of ZImoun's Volume, 2011, photo by Hannah Daly; Still from Zimon: Sound Architectures, Sculptures & Installations. Courtesy Bitforms.