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NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery opens Zimoun
Installation view of Zimoun's work at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery. Photography John Varghese.

ABU DHABI.- NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, the University’s academic museum-gallery, has opened its spring show to the public. This exhibition presents the work of acclaimed Swiss artist Zimoun. This landmark survey marks the first time the artist has exhibited his work in the Gulf, and is curated by Executive Director of the NYUAD Art Gallery and Chief Curator at NYU Abu Dhabi Maya Allison.

This exhibition features five immersive audio-visual installations, including a major new commission, an expansive room-sized installation that will be unveiled on the opening night. The other four are site-specific adaptations of Zimoun’s previous installations, and each of the works will be unique to the Gallery. Zimoun constructs extraordinary, immersive, sensory experiences. Each work has at its core a basic unit of every-day objects – for example, a motor, a cotton ball, and a cardboard box – which the artist installs in large quantities until it fills the available space in the Gallery.

NYUAD Art Gallery has commissioned a major new work, 510 Prepared DC-Motors, 2142 m Rope, Wooden Sticks 20 cm, a single, large installation that will fill the entire central space of the Gallery, 20 meters deep. Around it will be installed five site-specific installations, each of which represents a substantial evolution from past works:

First, 12 Ventilators, 21 m Polyethylene Foil develops the concept of a similar work, shown at the STRP Biennial in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. This new work will be installed across several of the Gallery’s windows. The installation uses motors, wood, rope, metal, a controlling system, and a large plastic sheet that appears to dance to a soothing mechanical sound.

Next, 37 Prepared DC-Motors, 85 m Rope, Steel Washers 40 mm, is a wall piece using a simple mechanical system that causes a curtain of string and washers to dance. Third, 192 Prepared DC-Motors, Wooden Sticks 2.4 m, is a wall-hanging of motorised wooden sticks installed in a long corridor in the Gallery. This is an iteration of a work previously shown at the Contemporary Art Museum, MAC Santiago de Chile. Fourth, 269 Prepared DC-Motors, Cotton Balls, Cardboard Boxes 60x60x60 cm soars 10 meters up into the Gallery’s double-height atrium area, a circular tower of cardboard boxes in which cotton balls clatter against the boxes to create a deep rumble. This tower is among Zimoun’s signature works, and has been adapted to multiple venues since 2013, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Rennes (France), STRP Biennial (Eindhoven, Netherlands), among others. Finally, after the main new commission, there will be another evolution of his curtain installation, in which small sticks dance a percussion in very small boxes, 31 Prepared DC-Motors, 31 m Rope, Wooden Sticks 19 cm, Cardboard Boxes 10x10x10 cm.

For the installation of the work, the artist and his studio team have been in residence for two weeks, during which he has connected with both the NYUAD community, and with the UAE more generally.

About his experience in the UAE, Zimoun says: “During my time here installing this show, I spent the weekend in the desert. I was struck by its quality of silence. When it is that silent, it changes how we listen. That kind of listening, as if listening to silence, is in fact what my own work is about, although the installations make sound.”

Allison notes: “Watching Zimoun and his studio installing this massive exhibition over a two-week period alongside student interns and local artist assistants has energized me, and deepened my understanding of the architectural and sonic qualities of his work. He has said that he thinks of his work as ‘audible buildings’ that we can explore as much with our ears as with our eyes. Faculty from Engineering, Sculpture, Music, and Interactive Media have all brought their students to visit the installation in progress to learn from the artist, as we, as a society, consider our future buildings, and the soundscapes we inhabit in daily life .”

The NYUAD Art Gallery has also commissioned the first book-length publication on Zimoun, edited by the artist and Allison, with five essays from international scholars, to be released during the Abu Dhabi Book Fair in April.

Zimoun lives and works in Bern, Switzerland. His work has been presented internationally, highlights of which include the Museum of Contemporary Art MAC Santiago de Chile; Nam June Paik Art Museum Seoul; Kuandu Museum Taipei; Ringling Museum of Art Florida; Mumbai City Museum; National Art Museum Beijing; LAC Museum Lugano; Seoul Museum of Art; Museum MIS So Paulo; Kunsthalle Bern; Taipei Fine Arts Museum; Le Centquatre Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art Busan; Museum of Fine Arts MBAL; and Kunstmuseum Bern, among others. Zimoun co-founded Leerraum, (translated meaning ‘empty space’), a project to produce experimental music projects on CD, DVD, print, and sound objects, with nearly 100 works from 50 international artists and designers, illustrating once more the immersive nature of Zimoun’s work.

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