September 22, 2010

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

I remember that there were only two artists at Sevilla Biennale 2008 whom I found interesting; I can't recall one without looking back to my journal but the other was the Mexican-Canadian electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. He also caught my radar at Basel Art Fair in 2009. So I am pleased to see that he has a solo show called Recorders at Manchester Art Gallery. It features seven recent pieces of which I think I recognise a couple from the previous installations.
Lozano-Hemmer’s artworks depend on the participation of visitors to exist and develop, as the artist describes:

“In Recorders, artworks hear, see and feel the public, they exhibit awareness and record and replay memories entirely obtained during the show. The pieces either depend on participation to exist or predatorily gather information on the public through surveillance and biometric technologies.”

Highlights of the exhibition include Pulse Room, on show in the UK for the very first time. Premiered in Puebla, Mexico in 2006 and shown to critical acclaim in the Mexican pavilion for the Venice Biennale in 2007, the work is made up of 100 light bulbs which are activated by a sensor to flash at the exact rhythm of particpants' heart rates.

"33 Questions per Minute" is a Queneau-like question-generating programme which as much uses rules of grammar to create endless (enigmatic and/or meaningless) questions. "Close Up" invites viewers to insert a finger into a scanner which then generate a digital image of the finger print into a collage of previously inserted fingers.

Seeing this accumulation of Lozano-Hemmer work, the striking thing is the visual pleasure in the digital super-realism of the images or the soothing beauty in mathematically balanced proportion in such works as Pulse Room. Oddly though, this ultimate over-rules the putative selling point of interactivity. This becomes of peripheral interest - and if focused on too long undermines the effect of the show as a whole because it gives the impression that in the end all the works are versions of the same piece.

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