Email interview with Zimoun conducted by N. Elizabeth Schlatter, curator, December 2012

With the work that is included in this exhibition, flow is experienced both visually and aurally when the piece is engaged. How important is this rhythm and flow when you decide to design and create a work like this one? And how important is it to you for the visitor to experience a flow with his/her senses?

Related to my work I understand “flow“ as the moment when dead matter (industrial materials) turns somehow into something almost feeling organic or alive. I try to develop systems on very simple principles that then start to develop their own behavior. Of course it‘s still somehow dead matter, but the complexity of its behavior is growing in a way that it starts to feel somehow organic. I think this is happening if it‘s reaching a level of complexity which, for us, is not predictable in its microstructures anymore. It can happen based on very simple, somehow primitive and also predictable individual behaviors (for instance watching a single mechanical element), if they are getting multiplied and start to become one bigger organism.

I read in an interview the following quote from you: “The order, the matrix is often the technical situation, the system, the set up. And then the chaos and individuality is coming out of its activity.” 1 Where do you see or experience chaos in your pieces? Do you find that the randomness is concentrated more in one form over another? 

As I tried to describe it in the earlier question, I think this chaos or randomness grows out of complexity that happens if we study a piece as one organism, at the moment when microstructures in sound and motion get so complex that they start to remind us of something organic.

Patterns appear in the movement, sound, visual components (especially line, shade, and color), structure, and placement of your artworks. Are there any sources, natural or artificial, that you find particularly inspiring to you in terms of pattern?

I‘m inspired by many different things. From nature to perception and brain functions, from artificial intelligence to robotics, from philosophy to themes of individuality, society and mass behaviors, from science to small details we could discover every day in normal and found objects all around us. Just to mention a few. So for me the inspiration is coming from many different fields and subjects.

You’ve also said, “What you hear is what you see.” 2 Why is the link between the visual, the kinetic, and the auditory so critical for much of your work? Would you ever consider playing around with that idea of presenting these elements but interrupting causal connections while implying or alluding that they exist?

It‘s based on my general interest in simplicity and directness. I‘m interested in trying to reduce my work as much as possible to get to the point when sound and motion become one thing. So the work is no longer a combination of visual aspects and sound— it‘s one complete system and each part needs the other. As one whole system we can hear and see it.

The physical space or volume that you choose for your art seems carefully determined. The works and installations exist in space but also demarcate or contain a space, such as in the case of the piece for this exhibition that seems to emphasize the height and flatness of the wall. Is that so-called negative space, the place between the metal rods and the wall, or the interior of structures that you’ve created with boxes in larger installations, for example, as important as the physical presences of the materials you use? When you determine the volume and placement of your work, what kinds of factors are you considering?

I try to find a balance and connection/relationship between materials, space as volume, the sound properties of a space as well as of the used materials. I try to bring all those elements together in a way that they all need each other and develop an entire system.

To go along with this idea of your work existing in space, is it fair to say that within your practice as an artist you are exploring how art engages or connects to other people? I know that you purposely try to keep your works vague in terms of not insisting on any sort of interpretive content or references so that it remains open for the viewer to make associations or conclusions. But there still seems to be an obvious awareness of maximizing the potential experience of a person in the same space as your work, both visually and aurally.

I think a beautiful and important part of the arts evolve in the space happening between the audience and the art piece. My work somehow needs the audience which starts to make their own, individual connections to realities, illusions and experiences they made, to ideas they have and thoughts coming out of the inspiration happening at that moment. If the audience is getting activated and starts to create their own connections, far away from “right or wrong“ the art can grow into unexpected and individual levels and dimensions. I‘m creating abstract pieces based on very simple, industrial or every day objects, which then, if they work, can inspire and activate the people to create their individual connections and ideas. Ideally this can function similar to natural phenomena, in which beauty helps people to lose themselves for a moment and to discover themselves at the same time, somehow.

Regarding the psychological concept of “flow,” could you talk a bit about your creative process? The art that you make seems to have many steps to completion. When do you find yourself in a creative state of flow, and how are ideas generated and managed when you have assistants with you in the studio or for installations?

I‘m developing my work based on many elements. There might be an idea, maybe inspired by a material, a sound, a behavior of a movement, a space to present a piece, something I experience in an everyday situation or just an idea coming from somewhere. Then this normally turns into many steps of experiments, tests and prototypes. Through this process details start to get more clear or even unexpected results influence the whole development into an unexpected, other direction.


Zimoun : 216 prepared dc-motors, filler wire 1.0mm, 2009 / 2010 from STUDIO ZIMOUN on Vimeo.


Zimoun (Swiss, born 1977) has had recent solo exhibitions held at Gallery Wandelbar, Gstaad, Switzerland (2004, 2005); FIT, Berlin (2005); Monkey Town, New York (2008); Push Gallery, Montreal (2010); Contemporary Art Museum MNAC, Bucharest (2011); and Bitforms Gallery, New York (2012). His work has also been featured in select group exhibitions appearing at Swiss Art Awards, Basel (2006, 2011, 2012); Nemo Festival, Paris (2008); Museum of Fine Arts, Bern, Switzerland (2009); International Biennale for Young Art, Moscow (2010); Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria (2010); Kunsthalle Palazzo, Liestal, Switzerland (2011); and Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei, Taiwai (2012). He has been awarded the Mention Swiss Youth Photo Award (2000); Residency in Beijing, China (2004); Aeschlimann Corti Award (2005); Kiefer Hablitzel Award, Swiss Art Awards (2006); Aeschlimann Corti Award, First Prize (2009); and Prix Ars Electronica, Honorary Mention (2010). Zimoun currently lives and works in Bern, Switzerland.

Read more about Zimoun and his work  





  1. interview in with Marco Mancuso, “Zimoun & Leerraum. Sound Organisms in Evolution,” DIGIMAG, February 2011, http://www.digicult.it/en/digimag/issue-061/zimoun-leerraum-sound-organisms-in-evolution/ accessed Dec. 12, 2012
  2. interview with Mark Peter Wright in EAR ROOM, January 1, 2011, http://earroom.wordpress.com/2011/01/01/zimoun/ accessed Dec. 12, 2012