Work of Art: Zimoun at Beakerhead

Calgary and its surrounding area is full of creative people and beautiful pieces of art. Here is just one piece you should know about.

267 prepared dc-motors, cotton balls, cardboard boxes, 24" x 24" x 24", 2016; approximately 12’ x 40’ x 30’ (occupies main level of C, Contemporary Gallery.) Photograph by Elise Fournie

The building materials of each unit are humble: a cardboard box, a length of wire, a simple motor, a small ball of felted cotton. Once the motor sets the ball on the wire into a slight tapping motion, it beats the box softly. Multiply by more than 200 units and the percussive metre can be felt as well as heard. Use them as building blocks and the architecture is transformed into an abstract space, a serpentine corridor, an immersive bath of rhythmic vibration. The overall system is engineered, yet the motors are not synchronized. Each little motor plugs on, retaining its mechanical individuality, contributing to the thrum of the mighty chorus. Over time, indeterminacy affects the course.

There are several Calgary festivals – the annual Sled Island Festival, as well as the biennial Mountain Standard Time Performative Art Festival and International Festival of Animated Objects – that highlight various forms of contemporary art. Beakerhead, the self-declared “smashup” of arts, engineering and science, is among them, and this year is partnering with C, Contemporary Calgary, a relative newcomer among Calgary’s public art galleries, to present this work by the young Swiss artist Zimoun.

Over the last six years, Zimoun has attracted international attention with immersive crossover installations of sound architecture animated with kinetic sculpture. Self-taught, Zimoun found the writings of American composer John Cage resonate with his own thinking.

“Our intention is to affirm this life, not to bring order out of chaos, not to suggest improvements in creation, but simply to wake up to the very life we’re living, which is so excellent once one gets one’s mind and one’s desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord,” said Cage in Silence, Lecture and Writings.

Here is an event that truly embodies Mayor Nenshi’s vision of 2016 as Calgary’s Year of Music.

You’ll find the piece at C, Contemporary Calgary, 117 8th Ave. S.W. Opening, Sept. 14, continuing through Oct. 16, with the possibility of extending to Nov 6. For more information on this piece of art, visit

More art at Beakerhead by Calgary-based artists

The Saturnian

An inflatable cyber/narwhale hybrid by Bee Kingdom Collective on the grounds at Fort Calgary.

The BASS Ship

A tour-de-force interactive sound- and light-generating machine by Beama Visual Environments, beneficiaries of the Remarkable Experience Accelerator Grant from Calgary Arts Development and the Calgary Hotel Association and the Big Bang Residency Program at The Banff Centre.

Learn more about the people and organizations moving Calgary forward with Avenue's Innovation Newsletter.

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