Creating plenty of buzz

Creating plenty of buzz
Sound-media artist Zulkifle Mahmod.

SINGAPORE - Sound and sculpture come together seamlessly in a solo exhibition by sound-media artist Zulkifle Mahmod, which opens at The Private Museum in Waterloo Street next week.

The exhibition, Zul: Sonically Exposed, features 14 reliefs, installations and sculptures, each made up of a variety of delicate electronic components: capacitors, resistors, integrated circuits and piezo discs, all linked together by artfully bent metal wires.

The delicate piezo discs, which are usually used in microphones to convert sound to electronic signals, emit a series of electronic crackles, buzzes and clicks, making the exhibition not just for the eyes, but for the ears as well.

Zulkifle says that the carefully exposed circuits, some of which are mounted on wooden boards and some of which stand alone, are rooted in his interest in the internal workings of things.

"I guess it's always the fascination with what's inside. A lot of the time, we don't see the hardware or the internal parts," says the 39-year-old, who has a diploma in visual arts (sculpture) from the Lasalle College of the Arts.

"It's like Singapore, where everything on the surface is very nice and packaged nicely for people or tourists, but if you stay here longer and look in deeper, there are a lot of things going on."

While the works in this exhibition are intricately designed and crafted, he says his first brush with electronic circuits was through child's play.

He explains: "My first introduction to electronics was through toys in 2005. I started off with circuitbending, in which you open up toys, like toy pianos, and short-circuit them to do things like change the pitch and create loops."

Since then, he has moved on to make circuits which are not just eye-catching, but also a lot more complicated.

In this exhibition, the majority of the works are interactive and respond to the presence of a viewer. Several of the sculptures and reliefs have light sensors nestled among a city of wires which react to changes in light - for example, if a shadow is cast on them. Blocking the light can change the pitch and intensity of the sounds and create multiple tones.

Zulkifle draws a parallel between the transient nature of the changes in sound and the local landscape over the past few years.

"I always go back to what's happening in Singapore. In the last few years, there has been a lot of urbanisation, and a lot of things have happened. For example, to accommodate MRT lines, there have been a lot of road detours. There's a place where I usually wait for my bus, and two weeks later, the bus stop shifts," he says.

"I think memories can also be like that: short-term, and everything is constantly changing."

With this exhibition, he also hopes to change the public's perception of what is sound art.

"I think for me, I always like to introduce new ways of listening to art to the public. There's a misconception that sound art is very performative - there is a lot more to it than that, there are installations and interactive works as well."

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