An Echo Button: Haroon Mirza

Curated by Silvia Sgualdini, British artists Ed Atkins, James Richards and Haroon Mirza have been invited to evoke the history of New York’s iconic Times Square for this year’s Performa 11 in NYC

An Echo Button. Ed Atkins, Haroon Mirza and James
An Echo Button. Ed Atkins, Haroon Mirza and James Richards. Courtesy the artists.

Now in its fourth term, the internationally acclaimed visual art performance biennial, a three week event founded in 2004 by RoseLee Goldberg, has for this year’s edition brought together British artists Ed Atkins, James Richards and Haroon Mirza to evoke a historical depiction of New York’s iconic Times Square. The artists nurture this craft from their highly acclaimed adaptation of the aesthetics and acoustics of popular culture, to unravel common perceptions and embark on a reinterpretation of one of the most iconic urban visual landmarks of the contemporary world. The fruits of this collaboration will be screened on Times Square’s Toshiba Vision LED screen, accompanied by a concept installation at 1500 Broadway, an “echo chamber” for the works.

With an MA in Fine Art from the Chelsea College of Art & Design and an MA in Design Critical Practice and Theory from Goldsmiths College, Mirza has applied his unique understanding of design to form a signature unpicking and revaluating process, seeking to blend visuals and sound into a singular art form. Since winning the Northern Art prize in 2010, Mirza has not been one to rest on his laurels. The Sheffield and London based artist also impressed this year winning the Silver Lion Promising Young Artist award in Venice for his installation, 'The National Apavilion of Then and Now'. Just ahead of the projects launch, Dazed talked to the emerging British artist to find out more about the collaboration.

Dazed Digital: How did you become involved with the project?
Haroon Mirza: I was invited by Silvia Sgualdini the curator of the project. She originally conceived it as an independent project but then at some point Performa came on board and it became part of this years programme. 

DD: Can you tell me about the collaborative process between yourself, Ed Atkins & James Richards? What was it like working with them and developing each of your ideas and influences?
Haroon Mirza: I was an admirer of both their work and I was already discussing potential projects with James. When we were all originally approached with the proposition of being in a show together we all naturally decided on collaborating. It’s a pleasure to work with them because they both bring such different ideas and skills to the table.

DD: As an artist who works with electronics, sculpture, visuals and sound from our environments, how important was working on a site at the heart of these characteristics?
Haroon Mirza: Times Square is a totally visual experience in that there is no engineered sound. The aural environment is just as impressive as the visual but it’s completely ambient yet overwhelming. Max Neuhaus, whose work we are incorporating into our project demonstrates this best.

DD: What in particular caught your imagination from the history of Times Square?
Haroon Mirza:
The Max Neuhaus piece, ‘Times Square’, The New Years Eve ball in relation to the sceptical of the new year event and the corporate branding of technology.

DD: How have you adapted as an artist to such a large scale project in comparison to your earlier works? Has this changed your work?
Haroon Mirza: It’s just a question of scale. The principles remain the same and the work needs to evolve.

DD: You studied design - how has this influenced your perceptions and translated into your work?
Haroon Mirza:
I use the methodology of design and prototyping as a form of production.

DD: What does Times Square represent?
Haroon Mirza:
For me Times Square represents the state of visual media and corporate visual identity.

Emerging British Artists Premiere a Multi-Media Project, on Toshiba Vision in the Heart of Times Square, and at Zabludowicz Collection, 1500 Broadway, NY; November 8–11, 2011.

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