Sunday, October 17, 2021

Haroon Mirza: year zero (2020). Ikon Gallery

Ikon Gallery announces the world premiere of new audiovisual artwork 'year zero' from Haroon Mirza, via YouTube

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Ikon announces the world premiere of year zero (2020), a new audiovisual artwork by British artist Haroon Mirza.

Taking place on Wednesday 16 December 2020 at 8pm GMT via Ikon Gallery’s YouTube account, year zero is a new commission by Ikon, with Art Fund support. The work is part of Mirza’s ‘modular opera’ series, composed by him and realised in collaboration with a singer, musician and designer. Produced during the COVID-19 lockdown, it is inspired by the widely circulated smartphone footage of Italians singing from their balconies and windows at the start of the pandemic, their small but rousing balcony performances capturing a collective sense of optimism and unity.

Using sci-fi to navigate a new global order, Mirza in his ‘modular opera’ focuses on two central narrative elements: a pandemic causing a state of lockdown in major cities globally and a shaman reconnecting with natural forces and ancient practices.

Part recital, part voice experiment, year zero is performed by vocalist Sarah-Jane Lewis and accompanied by an electronic score performed by musician Jack Jelfs.

The central element of the work documents an evening performance by Lewis in the residential courtyard where Mirza’s studio is located. This recital was programmed by Mirza’s studio (hrm199) for his neighbours in the building during the UK’s second national lockdown in November 2020. Filmed by both Mirza and audience members from neighbouring apartments, the footage focuses on Lewis who wears an outfit of gold lamé and electric blue body paint designed by Osman Yousefzada for a previous performance at the Lahore Biennale 2020.

Haroon Mirza, installation view, Dancing with the Unknown exhibition at Nikolaj Kunsthal (2018)
Haroon Mirza, installation view, Dancing with the Unknown exhibition at Nikolaj Kunsthal (2018)

For this commission I was somehow compelled to think about a very local community and how we can connect to another community elsewhere through music, performance and storytelling. I saw it as an opportunity to both develop the narrative of my modular opera but also bring something meaningful to being at home. As I developed the piece it became very much about breathing – the unconscious process we do at all times yet take for granted. Breathing has been the focus of so much attention in 2020.
Haroon Mirza

Haroon Mirza participates simultaneously in Ikon’s exhibition Faster Than Ever (4 December 2020 – 14 February 2021), created as a result of the challenges faced by the gallery due to the pandemic. year zero follows Mirza’s major retrospective exhibition at Ikon in 2018 and also builds on the ongoing collaboration between Mirza and Osman, whose first solo exhibition was held at Ikon, also in 2018.

Haroon Mirza’s exhibition at Ikon was a highlight in our gallery programme. Covid-19 has since shifted our focus outdoors and into virtual space, where necessity is embraced as a source of inventiveness by artists and audiences alike. This impulse is epitomised by Haroon’s new operatic project, engendering a sense of community paradoxically through our shared experience of locked-down isolation. Music is the unlocking key. 
Jonathan Watkins, Director, Ikon

Ikon’s presentation of year zero is supported by Cafe OTO, Media Partner. Ikon’s public programme features a number of events including a panel discussion organised in response to year zero, for more information please visit

To watch the premiere of year zero please subscribe to Ikon Gallery on YouTube. The screening is free to watch, please consider making a donation to support the gallery. year zero will be available via Ikon’s YouTube account until 14 February 2021.

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