Attaching turntables and a mixer to an amplifier is a routine familiar to any budding disc jockey, but this kind of set-up process is also a preamble to any display of Haroon Mirza’s work. In other words, his assemblages and installations need to be turned on, plugged in or mic’d up. The 36-year-old Sheffield-based artist plays and creates his own records and music, often directly through his sculptures, which mismatch junk shop-bought hi-fi separates with everything from television sets and keyboards to projectors, lasers and even dry-ice machines. His new London show, opening on Friday, is titled ‘/o/o/o/o/’, after the typographic notation of a musical waveform and features five record players, a reverberation chamber and a room of surround-sound speakers.
Many contemporary artists resemble DJs nowadays, in as much as they are multimedia samplers or cultural diggers looking for that perfect combination of source material to best connect with their audience. Increasingly, though, artists are exploiting the specific, analogue attributes and physical qualities of vinyl itself (see below), another example of which will be broadcast online by Tate Live, when the Beijing-based artist Liu Ding will be blending baroque music tracks with Chinese voices. Mirza too is a practising DJ and has previously paid homage to beat-matching and mixing pioneer Francis Grasso, whose legendary New York club night, Sanctuary, lends its name to a 2009 work by Mirza. Grasso’s two-deck wizardry is further alluded to in an earlier piece by Mirza, ‘Radio DJ (no.3)’ from 2006. This installation consisted of two recordings of different radio stations noisily layered over one another before suddenly, unexpectedly synchronising, with ‘Tour de France’ by German electro outfit Kraftwerk seamlessly blending into ‘Canon’ by German baroque composer Pachelbel, creating an otherworldly mash-up.
Mirza has long doctored records or fashioning his own handmade vinyl substitutes from corrugated card or Perspex, but is just as likely to attach a transistor radio to a turntable, or hook up a portable CD player to a bucket of water, creating discordant hums, buzzes and bursts of feedback. For his three new shows, Mirza has pulled apart stereos, lighting systems and computer circuits to construct new phonographic hybrids that seem to switch on and off of their own accord. Every click of a device is important in the scheme of things; every movement combines to create a new composition in Mirza’s looping, interconnected soundscapes. Tune in and check out something new.