Regular 3rings readers know that I often like to start discussion of a new product or piece by situating it among past offerings. This strategy is usually worthwhile for the illumination it provides about the evolution of styles and approaches, and it’s easy enough to compare, say, a bentwood chair to another bentwood chair, but what is one to do with Zimoun and Pelang’sSound Sculptures?
Sound Sculptures. Designed by Zimoun and Pelang.
These installations (one critic has dubbed them forays into “acoustic architecture”) are agglomerations and arrangements of assorted do-hickeys, contraptions, and what-nots along the gleaming white surface(s) of a six-walled portable cube. The objects in question are all automated to create a specific sound, so, for example, a length of nickel chain is rolled ad infinitum around a revolving spindle; or a series of pea-sized styrofoam balls is bounced off the glass walls of a ventilator. The resultant acoustic and aesthetic experience is something to see, to be sure, though as far as comparing it to what has gone before I’m drawing a blank.
And that’s absolutely fine with me. These certainly aren’t “products” in the typical sense of the word—nothing here can be purchased or used to enhance your décor—but they are nevertheless a significant achievement from a design and artistic perspective, and, as I mentioned, they present a strange and challenging and somewhat foreboding aesthetic. Most of them remind me of the bizarre, and possibly malevolent, machinations of some futuristic super-genius bent on world domination via mind control. The room and its assorted assemblies have a laboratory quality that suggests cleanliness and sterility, and the automated contraptions necessarily have a robotic quality that’s off-putting yet simultaneously intriguing. Watch the video: I defy you to avert your eyes or plug your ears, such is the visual and aural allure.
My favorites include "216 prepared DC motors with 1 mm filler wire," which sounds like the most consistent and hypnotic downpour ever; "400 prepared vibration motors in wooden cases," resembling the thunderous applause of one million perfectly-synced pairs of hands; and “Swarm Prepared Vibration Motors,” which—besides providing the visual allure of these randomly-moving, mini-motors smacking into one another like some Nanotech version of the Three Stooges—creates an other-worldly droning suggestive of impending doom.
One critic has said of Zimoun and Pelang’s work that “the emphasis is taken away from any kind of technological spectacle and kept firmly on the materials and their elaborated behavior in an overall system of events. Indeed, one of the refreshing elements of this work is the immediacy with which one can understand the sound-making process, where each micro-event is present, visible, and concrete.” The short-version of this is that you have to see it and hear it to believe it.