As a highlight of The Sound Maker, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s year-long celebration of the art of sound in watchmaking, the Maison will present a new ‘sound sculpture’ installation commissioned by Jaeger-LeCoultre from the Swiss contemporary artist, Zimoun, The new work of art will be exhibited around the world, following its debut in China.
In choosing to expand its creative and cultural universe through this art commission, Jaeger-LeCoultre enlarges the dialogue that exists between horology and art. In keeping with The Sound Maker theme, the Maison has chosen to collaborate with an artist whose main body of work examines and celebrates the nature of sound.
In his work, Zimoun employs simple raw materials and repurposed industrial components to create complex and evocative tapestries of sound and movement that redefine traditional ideas of sculpture, space and time. Discussing his approach, the artist explains: “I’m interested in sound as an architectonic element to create space, but also in sound which somehow inhabits a room and interacts with it. I work with three-dimensional sound structures, with spatial experiences and the exploration of sound, material and space – and perception.”
Zimoun deliberately chooses materials that are not necessarily intended just to look attractive, basing his choices on their dynamics, behaviour and resonance properties. In this sense, there are clear parallels with the way the watchmakers of Jaeger-LeCoultre work with metal, and this adds a deeper dimension to the collaboration with Zimoun. “We are delighted to work with Zimoun,” says Catherine Rénier, Chief Executive Officer of Jaeger-LeCoultre. “Like our Manufacture, he transforms raw materials with precision. His expertise and creativity with metal was a perfect fit with our artisans, who are always looking for the ideal balance between technicality and beauty.”
Like the artisans who construct chiming watch movements, Zimoun creates graceful and poetic works that combine simplicity with complexity and playfulness with elegance. In both cases, fascination lies in the immediacy of understanding the sound-making process through visible and concrete elements, while at the same time the complexity of the total system defies attempts to dissect it.
‘The Sound Maker’ Installation
“1944 prepared dc-motors, mdf panels 72 x 72 cm, metal discs Ø 8cm, 2020”
To encourage freedom of interpretation, Zimoun gives his works very technical titles that just describe the materials used – the elements that the viewer sees anyway. The work is based on small dc-motors, fine wires, MDF panels and almost 2,000 very thin metal discs. These discs are, in fact, watchmaking components obtained from the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre to serve as sound sources. Connected to the motors by wires, the discs rotate against the MDF panels in a similar way to a coin falling to the ground. This friction produces a highly complex sound structure and the movement creates a flickering surface.
The artist explains: “Since all the wires holding the metal discs are bent by hand, each is slightly different, causing the metal discs to rotate at different angles or speeds. This creates a complex individuality that affects both the visual and acoustic properties of the work. The sound becomes very complex and is in constant change in its microstructures. Similar to the sound of a river, which never sounds exactly the same again. Visually, a similar complexity arises…resulting in a kind of flickering, similar to the effect we know from water surfaces.”
In the viewer’s mind, this complex and evocative tapestry of sound and movement can be connected with natural phenomena – the sounds of nature and the reflection of sunlight on water – immersing visitors in the natural soundscape of the valley and evoking the deep connections between the watchmakers of Jaeger-LeCoultre and their surroundings.
Zimoun (born 1977) is a Swiss self-taught artist best known for his ‘sound sculptures’, sound architectures and installation art. Exploring mechanical rhythm and flow in programmed systems, his emotionally engaging installations incorporate commonplace raw materials and industrial objects, articulating a tension between the orderly patterns of Modernism and the chaotic forces of life. In addition to being recognised by numerous residencies and grants, Zimoun’s work has been presented in exhibitions at prestigious international museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Art MAC Santiago de Chile; Nam June Paik Art Museum Seoul; Kuandu Museum Taipei; Art Museum Reina Sofia Madrid; Ringling Museum of Art Florida; Mumbai City Museum; National Art Museum Beijing; LAC Museum Lugano; Seoul Museum of Art; Museum MIS São Paulo; Muxin Art Museum Wuzhen; Kunsthalle Bern; Taipei Fine Arts Museum; Le Centquatre Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art Busan; Museum of Fine Arts MBAL; Kunstmuseum Bern; Museum Collection Lambert Avignon; among others. The artist lives and works in Bern, Switzerland.
ABOUT THE SOUND MAKER
In 2020, Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrates THE SOUND MAKER, paying homage to the sounds of nature that form a backdrop to daily life in the Vallée de Joux, and to its great legacy of chiming timepieces, expressing a century and a half of accumulated expertise in fresh new ways. During the 150 years since the Manufacture developed its first minute repeater in 1870, chiming watches have been a particular forte, with 200 calibres demonstrating its mastery of all forms, from relatively simple alarms to highly complex sonneries and repeaters. In parallel, the Manufacture’s engineers and designers have patented numerous innovations that redefine the benchmark for acoustic quality and beauty.
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s The Sound Maker exhibition in Chengdu, China
THE SOUND MAKER exhibition, a highlight of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s year-long celebration of the art of sound in watchmaking, will be inaugurated at Guangdong Hall, Chengdu, starting from November 10th. The exhibition will immerse visitors in the creative and cultural universe of Jaeger-LeCoultre, exploring the uniquely rich heritage – past, present and future – of chiming watches at La Grande Maison, and paying homage to its home in the Vallée de Joux, where the sounds of nature still provide the backdrop to daily life.
The New Art Commission Makes Its World Debut
At the heart of the exhibition, expanding the dialogue that exists between horology and art, a new ‘sound sculpture’ installation commissioned by Jaeger-LeCoultre from the Swiss contemporary artist, Zimoun, will be unveiled for the first time. After its debut in China, the installation will be exhibited around the world during 2021.
In this new work, Zimoun encapsulates the universe of sound – within the Manufacture and in the natural world around it – that is so intrinsic to the spirit of Jaeger-LeCoultre. He employs simple raw materials and repurposed industrial components, including watch parts – and, in doing so, redefines traditional ideas of sculpture, movement and sound, drawing the audience into an almost transcendent world of sensory experience.
“I first got hooked by the sound, like the soft, appeasing sound of the rain,” says Catherine Rénier, Chief Executive Officer of Jaeger-LeCoultre. “As you get closer, the movement of the metal is mesmerizing. Each angle gives a different feeling and invites you to stop, enjoy and listen.”
In the ability to conjure romance from mundane materials and to create evocative sounds through complex systems of structure and mechanics, there are clear parallels between the work of the artist and the watchmakers of the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre. Just as the components of a watch movement seem to take on a life of their own when assembled, the industrially-produced elements that Zimoun combines into his sculptures seem to develop their own behaviour, producing new and unique sounds and visual effects.
When commissioning the new work, Jaeger-LeCoultre invited the artist to spend time in the Vallée de Joux, where he was able to absorb the valley’s natural sounds, and also spend time with the specialists who work on chiming watches within the Manufacture. The fruit of that rich exchange of culture and ideas, Zimoun’s new installation creates a unique aural signature for Jaeger-LeCoultre, evoking the sounds of nature and of the Manufacture, as well as capturing the rippling of light on the surface of the lake seen from the watchmaking ateliers.
The Story of Sound at Jaeger-LeCoultre
THE SOUND MAKER exhibition leads visitors on a journey through Jaeger-LeCoultre’s rich patrimony, celebrating the twin values of tradition and innovation that have guided it throughout its 187-year history. Featuring rare or unique timepieces curated from both historic and contemporary collections, as well as never-previously exhibited documents and artefacts, it traces the evolution of chiming watches from the Maison’s origins to the new 2020 models, and from the most refined minute repeaters and complex sonneries to the highly practical and much-loved Memovox alarm watch.
The journey begins with a retrospective of the earliest and most historically significant of the LeCoultre chiming masterworks – some of which have never been displayed to the public before; it highlights technical inventions and patents that have contributed to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s worldwide renown – and to its status as “the watchmakers’ watchmaker” among other great Maisons that it supplied with movements; it reveals the inner secrets of how chiming watches work; and it honours the skill of the artisans who employed their rare crafts to embellish the most precious timepieces.
Paying tribute to La Grande Maison’s home in the Vallée de Joux, the exhibition also features a captivating 8D video installation that immerses visitors in the natural soundscape of the valley and evokes the watchmakers’ deep connections to their peaceful surroundings.
THE SOUND MAKER exhibition will be presented from November 10th until November 22nd, at Guangdong Hall, Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu, China.