Casting Shadows

In Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's practice, technologies all but synonymous with top-down monitoring and control (surveillance cameras, tracking systems, pattern-recognition software) transform into the base-units of interactive installations. "RECORDERS," the artist's current solo exhibition at The Edith Russ Site for Media Art, in Germany, emphasizes the individual and collective aspects of spectatorship, building an art-going public, in part, through archives of the visual and physical traces of past viewers. Close-up, for example, comprises a monitor divided into 800 small videos, which together respond to the physical presence of a spectator by mimicking the form of his or her shadow. These small videos are but fragments of a constantly updating reserve of 10,000 recordings, all of spectators who have previously viewed the work. For Pulse Room, Lozano-Hemmer has wired an array of 100 suspended lightbulbs to a metal handle. When a visitor grasps the handle, his or her pulse causes the first bulb in the array to flicker in unison; the introduction of another visitor's pulse causes the first flicker to move to the next bulb, and so on. Eventually, all of the lightbulbs hold a record of a given visitor - a fact all the more poetic considering that Lozano-Hemmer's inspiration came from listening to the heartbeats of his twins during his wife's pregnancy. Pulse Room is but one of many variations of this project: Pulse Front graced Toronto's Harbourfront last June, and Madison Square Park, in New York City, will host Pulse Park this coming fall. As with the best of Lozano-Hemmer's work, this evocative and technologically sophisticated installation finds its unique footing at the intersection of art, location and community. - Tyler Coburn

Image: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Close-up, 2006

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