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Born in Geneva in 1983. Lives currently in New York, USA.
Production and distribution circuits traditionally tend to separate visual art spaces from those linked to music. On the contrary, Zahra Poonawala tries to marry the sensations and find a means of expression connected to her dual background as artist and musician. She questions the birth of harmony, this spark that turns a sound into an object of spatial experience, with its density, its presence, or its absence.
She graduated from the Haute Ecole des Arts du Rhin (HEAR) in 2007 in the “Off Formats” Art section. In 2010 she integrated the Fresnoy National Contemporary Arts Studio in Tourcoing and graduated with honors for her interactive sound installation TUTTI in 2012.
Residencies and Awards
Her art work has been recognized through grants from the Alsace Region (Drac, AIC and AAA), Pro Helvetia Foundation, Swiss Cultural Fund and from several international residencies. Distinguished at the Contemporary Art Biennale in Mulhouse, she was awarded a prize by the Fracs of the «Grand Est Regions» by way of an artist residency at the Center for Contemporary Art Parc-Saint-Léger in Burgundy in 2009. The same year she obtained a creative residency in Montreal at the Agence Topo with «Variable Geographies», a cultural exchange program set up by the Chambre Blanche (Québec) and Incident.net (France). The following year she was awarded a research stay in Latvia as part of an exchange program between the cities of Strasbourg and Riga. She was invited as artist-in-residence at the opening of the Frac Franche-Comté in 2013 for a project with the Regional Conservatory of Besançon. End 2015, she was granted a residency by the Bade-Würtemberg region in Germany, in collaboration with the Kunststiftung, the French Institute in Stuttgart and the European Center for Contemporary Artistic Actions in Strasbourg. A partnership with the Conservatory and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra (SKO) was born during this residency to complete the «Constellations» project led by the artist.
It is in Basel that she participated for the first time in a collective exhibition: at Plug-In in 2008 (curators Irene Grillo and Raffael Dorig) during the Regionale 9. Participations in the following collective exhibitions followed with her interactive sound installation TUTTI: «Panorama 14» in 2012 (at the Fresnoy National Contemporary Art Studio); «Nuit Blanche» in Brussels; «Panorama» in 2013 (Contemporary Art Center in Vilnius, Lithuania, curator Kestutis Kuizinas); «Elastic Reality» (LABoral, Spain, curator Benjamin Weil); «Nuit du Son» (Kunsthalle of Mulhouse, curator Sandrine Wymann); «Digital Life» in 2014 (MACRO Testaccio, Rome, exhibition directed by Alain Fleischer) and in 2016 at the exhibition «Now I feel Concerned, Regionale 16» at L’Aubette 1928 with the Museums of the City of Strasbourg and Accélérateurs de Particules (curators Camille Giertler and Sophie Kauffenstein). She participated in other collective exhibitions with other installations and performances, notably at FEW in Wattwiller in 2014, CEAAC in Strasbourg, Freiburg-im-Brisgau in Germany during «Sound Surrounds» (curator Nicoletta Torcelli), «City Sonic» in Mons in Belgium, Cesis international art festival in Latvia and Frac Franche-Comté in 2014. Her latest interactive sound installation, The Fool’s Ballad, was presented in Shanghai (Chronus Art Center, curator Zhang Ga) and Basel (HEK, curator Sabine Himmelsbach) in 2017 and in Frac Alsace (curators Dr. Heike Piehler and Felizitas Diering) in 2018.
Video interviews slideshow