reality is somehow what we expect it to be, HAROON MIRZA @ IKON, BIRMINGHAM


Emoji summary: ➿ 🐚 🙃

First walking in to Haroon Mirza’s show @ Ikon in Birmingham, I thought, ‘oh noe, this is an exhibition for NERDS’. An inscrutable logic, but the appearance of a logic that is supposed to impress me / it doesn’t, i am alienated and left out / wanting something to hold on to as it flings me, for it to be enough. I am not a teacher, i don’t ask to see your workings out. I think, the rest of the show didn’t tear up this initial reaction, didn’t completely counteract it. I carried it with me as I walked through.

This is a weird dungeon show; with the soundproofing spikes on door entrances, bad headache droning of ’the National Apavillion of Then’ (Haroon’s contribution to the 2011 Venice Biennale). I didn’t like the macro effect, it made me sweat, want to tie my hair up and crouch down to escape it just a bit. What I liked were the individual bits that felt like the oddball children of a crazy man in a shed in the back garden in a thunderstorm. He’s wearing a tinfoil hat & everything’s a mess except the thing he’s currently working on which is precious and clear on his desk, halo of space around it.

~~The floating magnet fake LV bags and purses on mirrors and solar panels, hovering like bees or sci-fi ghosts. kinda facetious, but we all know i love facetious. both spectacle and substance while still being true, pure gimmick. delicious.

~~The tipped up wet bubbling bin and keyboard. I can see what every degree show water feature wants to be, bc this is a balanced kind of aesthetic wildness. chaotic and considered, like a plate on Chef’s table it was slick and raw at the same time and masterful in that in a way that made me wish it was the only thing in the room (rather than bundled in a corner in and amongst it all)

~~The revolving turntable, spinning a wooden statue of a dholi & an old skl radio. A wooden jewellery box with red fairy lights clustered inside it. a kind of gut-laugh in the formality (n maybe also the lack of formality!) of it all. the intermittent music of the video, a pakistani chef at a street food stall, clanging his utensils on the hot tawa;; percussive and affecting in its steady, building rhythmic clap.

~~ Delegated to the Resource Room on the side, a short video called ‘mera naam hai’, where Haroon’s brother acts out three fake interviews (as Vito Acconci, Donald Judd & Haroon Mirza). Two are cogent impersonations, while the impersonation of Haroon disintegrates into, again, a percussive edit of his brother saying ‘mera nam haroon mirza hai’. I wish this was in the main body of the show; it’s funny, clever, self-deprecating in its lack of assumption.

These were isolated moments, which i felt like I had to sift for. I got the impression this was something of a retrospective (?) or maybe halfway towards the form of a retrospective. But there were a few moments where i felt the curation stepping in the way of me experiencing something. Maybe it was bc it all felt too cluttered, maybe i wanted it to decide if it was a retrospective or not, or maybe just because Haroon’s practice is so sprawling, across form, medium, subject & interest, but tbh most importantly, across tone and delivery. There were a few moments where i felt myself run to a grinding halt, whiplash from the gear change and the clutch slide back into it. I wanted more continuity, a slicker surface that i could glide down.

Writing this review has been like pulling teeth. my body felt awkward and alien in the space, leaning away as the work had a conversation with itself. I was third wheel, gooseberry, eavesdropper and not really needed or wanted (aw) in the interaction. While there were individual moments and objects i clung to and orbited with joy, there was too much in the room. I wish this show had been better curated, sparser, leaned further into the slick modernity of the objects and aesthetic both. I wish whoever was in charge of this was better at Instagram tbh, was more able to bear that in mind as a framing device for placement & space. Less stuff bunged in the corner, more stuff cared and considered in the way it Occupies Space.

Haroon Mirza's reality is somehow what we expect it to be is on @ Ikon in Birmingham until 24th Feb

a reflective table has an iphone charging and a louis vuitton checkered brown style purse next to it
a metal bin has water bubble at the bottom of it, and over the top there is a keyboard balancing on the edges
a CRT on the floor shows two chefs on screen
a vinyl record player has a small radio on top and a wooden figure of a man holding a drum
a video interview with the artist introducing himself
a shot of a branch hanging in open space in the gallery