Features

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Media artist working at the intersection of architecture and performance art. He creates platforms for public participation using technologies such as robotic lights, digital fountains, computerized surveillance, media walls, and telematic networks. Inspired by phantasmagoria, carnival, and animatronics, his light and shadow works are “antimonuments for alien agency”.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, "Pulse Spiral" (2008). Center for Contemporary Culture, Melnikov Garash, Moscow, Russia. Photos by Antimodular Research.
All images Courtesy by the artist

Surface Tension

1991

“Surface Tension” is an interactive installation where an image of a giant human eye follows the observer with orwellian precision. This work was inspired by a reading of Georges Bataille’s text The Solar Anus during the first Gulf War: first wide-spread deployment of camera-guided “intelligent bombs”. Present-day computerised surveillance techniques employed by the Department of Homeland Security in the United States through the Patriot Act, provide a new and distressing backdrop for this piece.

Displaced Emperors

Relational Architecture 2, 1996

“Displaced Emperors” was an interactive installation that used an “architact” —architecture meets haptics— interface to transform the facade of the Habsburg Castle in Linz, Austria. Wireless 3D sensors calculated where participants pointed to on the façade and a large animated projection of a hand was projected at that location. As people on the street “caressed” the building, they could reveal the interiors of the Habsburg residence in Mexico City, Castillo de Chapultepec.

33 Questions per Minute

Relational Architecture 5, 1999

“33 Questions Per Minute” consists of a computer program which uses grammatical rules to combine words from a dictionary and generate 4.7 trillion unique, fortuitous questions. The automated questions are presented at a rate of 33 per minute—the threshold of legibility. The system will take over 271,000 years to ask all possible questions.

Body Movies

Relational Architecture 6, 2000

“Body Movies” transforms public space with interactive projections measuring between 400 and 1,800 square metres. Thousands of photographic portraits, previously taken on the streets of the host city, are shown using robotically controlled projectors. However the portraits only appear inside the projected shadows of the passersby, whose silhouettes can measure between two and twenty-five metres depending on how close or far away they are from the powerful light sources positioned on the ground.

Standards and Double Standards
Subsculpture 3, 2003

“Standards and Double Standards” is an interactive installation that consists of 10 to 100 fastened belts that are suspended at waist height from stepper motors on the ceiling of the exhibition room. Controlled by a computerized tracking system, the belts rotate automatically to follow the public, turning their buckles slowly to face passers-by. When several people are in the room their presence affects the entire group of belts, creating chaotic patterns of interference. Non-linear behaviours emerge such as turbulence, eddies and relatively quiet regions.

Under Scan
Relational Architecture 11, 2004

“Under Scan” is a public art installation based on self-representation. Thousands of “video-portraits” taken in Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, Northampton and Nottingham are projected onto the ground; at first, the portraits are not visible because the space is flooded by white light coming from a high-powered projector. As people walk around the area, their shadows are cast on the ground, revealing the video-portraits in short sequences.

Subtitled Public
2004

“Subtitled Public” consists of an empty exhibition space where visitors are detected by a computerised surveillance system. When people enter the space, the system generates a subtitle for each person and projects it onto him or her: the subtitle is chosen at random from a list of all the verbs conjugated in the third person. The only way of getting rid of a subtitle is to touch another person, which leads to the two subtitles being exchanged.

Pulse Room
2005

“Pulse Room” is an interactive installation featuring one to three hundred clear incandescent light bulbs, 300 W each and hung from a cable at a height of three metres. The bulbs are uniformly distributed over the exhibition room, filling it completely. An interface placed on a side of the room has a sensor that detects the heart rate of participants. When someone holds the interface, a computer detects his or her pulse and immediately sets off the closest bulb to flash at the exact rhythm of his or her heart.

Homographies
Subsculpture 7, 2005

“Homographies” is a large-scale interactive installation featuring a turbulent light array that responds to the movement of the public using a surveillance tracking system. The installation consists of white fluorescent light tubes hung from robotic fixtures on the ceiling of the exhibition space, equally spaced. Each light tube rotates slowly using a computerized stepper motor and create labyrinthine patterns of light that make “paths” or “corridors” between people. All lights are always on and typically constitute the only lighting in the exhibition hall, except for the natural light that spills into the space.

Sandbox

Relational Architecture 17, 2010

“Sandbox” is a large-scale interactive installation created originally for Glow Santa Monica. The piece consists of two small sandboxes where one can see tiny projections of people who are at the beach. As participants reach out to touch these small ghosts, a camera detects their hands and relays them live to two of the world’s brightest projectors, which hang from a boom lift and which project the hands over 8,000 square feet of beach. In this way people share three scales: the tiny sandbox images, the real human scale and the monstrous scale of special effects.

Tape Recorders

Subsculpture 14, 2011

Rows of motorised measuring tapes record the amount of time that visitors stay in the installation. As a computerised tracking system detects the presence of a person, the closest measuring tape starts to project upwards. When the tape reaches around 3 meters high it crashes and recoils back. Each hour, the system prints the total number of minutes spent by the sum of all visitors.

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