Last week, I visited my dear friend, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, the Mexican-Canadian artist, in his high tech studio in Montreal, where he has been living and working for many years. My first introduction to the work was at the Venice Biennial in 2007 when Rafa represented Mexico. His interactive installation entitled “Pulse Room” was the highlight of my visit to Venice. This solo exhibition consisted of hundreds of light bulbs hanging uniformly throughout the room in the Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel. When a person held the sensors in his or her hands, it detected the heart rate of the participant. When the hands were released, the heartbeat was transferred to the bulb and the flashing light was the exact rhythm of his or her heart beat. After 100 participants, there were 100 flashing light bulbs pulsating with various heart beats ranging from slow to rapid. An extraordinary vision to behold! Rafa was inspired to do this work after his twins were born.
In 2009, when “Pulse Park” was installed in Madison Square Park in Manhattan for over two months, thousands of people interacted even into the late hours of the evening. In this venue, when participants held the sensors and their heartbeats were transferred to the lights, a sensation of an undulating lawn was created due to the large spot lights placed around the perimeter of the park.
Continuing with this concept, I experienced “Pulse Index”, a recent work “which is an interactive installation that records participants’ fingerprints at the same time as their heart rates. The piece displays data for the last 509 participants in a stepped display that creates a horizon line of skin. As new recordings are added, the oldest ones disappear – a kind of “memento mori.” To participate, people introduce their finger into a custom-made sensor equipped with a 220x digital microscope and pulsimeter. Their fingerprint immediately appears on the largest cell of the display, pulsating to their heart beat. As more people try the piece one’s own recording travels upwards until it disappears altogether.”
What will Rafa think of next???
Rafa’s many projects have been exhibited in museums and outdoor spaces worldwide including Mexico City, Rotterdam, Lyon, Japan, Dublin, Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. His work is in private and public collections such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Jumex collection in Mexico, the Daros Foundation in Zurich and the Tate in London.
Rafa’s groundbreaking ability to develop cutting edge technology requiring human participation to activate the works expresses his desire to confront us with the new media of the 2lst century. We become part of the technology and the art.
“Pulse Index” will be included in an exhibition in Paris entitled “Trackers” at La Gaite Lyrique, September 29th – November 6th 2011.