Sean Dower: Artworks and information

Zou Zou's Mime Reconstructed 1993 - 2005

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Zou Zou's Mime Reconstructed 1993. Plywood, video and other media - 2240 x 2000 x 1220 mm, video 4.30min.

In 1993 the artist found a set of videotapes on an Amsterdam market from a 1985 performance by the cabaret clown Zou Zou. Much of the performance refers to socio-political issues of the time, like the nuclear arms race and space travel. In one section Zou Zou performs a mime, describing a mysterious three dimensional space. Dower studied the mime and reconstructed its ergonomic detail as a sculpture. A video monitor playing the mime is incorporated into the sculpture in a location uncannily anticipated in the original mime. In trying to 'read' the mime and sculpture, the viewer is taken on a mirrored journey in the virtual or imagined space of their own mind. The effect is paradoxical.

‘Zou Zou’s Mime Reconstructed’ was first exhibited in Amsterdam in 1993 and Dower spent several years trying to trace Zou Zou, whilst continuing to exhibit the work internationally. Adverts were taken out in the performing arts press and in 1999 the film was projected at huge scale onto the side of London's Southbank Centre, accompanied by an appeal. Zou Zou was eventually discovered via a German theatre festival and was traced to Amsterdam. He was originally from the US and had studied at clown school in Paris. It also transpired that Zou Zou had been going out with an artist friend of Dower's (Yvonne Dröge Wendel) when she occupied a studio in the same building as Dower, where the work was first exhibited in 1993.

Zou Zou finally saw the reconstruction of his mime in 1999 at an exhibition at Lokaal 01 in Antwerp. He brought along the guitarist from the performance and loaned one of his original props to the exhibition (a suitcase with pop-up Nuclear power station). Dower also impersonated Zou Zou in a series of photographs in 1993, which were shown at the Musee des beaux Arts, Dunkirque in 2005. During the exhibition, Dower dressed up as Zou Zou and went sightseeing around the town of Dunkirque.

“You piss in the wind and 15 years later, it comes back and hits you in the face" - Zou Zou speaking about this work in 1999.

Chronology 1985-2005

1985 - ‘Zou Zou’s circus cabaret’ performed and filmed in Germany
1993 - Video tape of performance found by the artist on a market in Amsterdam / The artist impersonates Zou Zou using make up and clothing / Zou Zou’s Mime translated into 3D, ergonomic space / 'Zou Zou's Mime Reconstructed' first exhibited exhibited in Amsterdam
1994 - Two more videotapes of performance found on same market
1996 - ‘Zou Zou’s Mime Reconstructed’ exhibited in London
1997 - ‘Zou Zou’s Mime Reconstructed’ exhibited in Vienna
1999 - Zou Zou’s mime screened on side of Southbank Centre, London / Adverts to trace Zou Zou placed in magazines etc / Reference to Zou Zou found on German theatre festival’s website /Artist successfully contacts Zou Zou, who lives in Amsterdam / ‘Zou Zou’s Mime Reconstructed’ exhibited at Lokaal 01, Antwerp / Zou Zou visits and performs at the opening of Lokaal 01 in Antwerp
2005 - Sean as Zou Zou and exhibition billboard for ‘Les Merveilles du Monde’ Museum of Fine Arts, Dunkerque, France