Adventures in Digital History

Artist Profile: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is a Mexican-Canadian electronic artist who specializes in the intersections of technology and architecture, as well as technological theatre and performance. Lozano-Hemmer graduated from Concordia University in Montréal, Canada with a B.Sc. in Chemistry, which likely provides the background and basis for his work.1 He interactive exhibits for public participation using technologies such as, “robotic lights, digital fountains, computerized surveillance, media walls, and telematic networks.”2 According to his bio found on his website, “he is inspired by phantasmagoria, carnival, and animatronics, his light and shadow works are “antimonuments for alien agency”.”3 His art has been showcased and commissioned worldwide, with Lozano-Hemmer being the first artist to represent Mexico in an exhibition at Palazzo Van Axel in 2007.4 Lozano-Hemmer has won numerous awards and his work can be found worldwide. For a full list, he has all his work listed on his website.

The Speaking Willow (2020)

The Speaking Willow, located at Planet World Museum, Washington D.C.5

The first piece I wanted to examine by Lozano-Hemmer is the Speaking Tree. This tree is located at the entrance of the Planet World Museum, and is the first thing people see from the front gates. When passing under it, it plays examples of 364 unique language recordings and it meant to set the stage for the entire museum. Starting off, I think this sculpture is gorgeous. It reminds me of a Weeping Willow tree, but knowing it is comprised of unique electronics and sound recordings makes it a truly interesting piece. It’s very simple in design but is meant to showcase harmony amongst language arts, which I think it does well.

Fiducial Voice Beacons (2014)

Fiducial Voice Beacons from Goldsmiths Department of Computing Blog.6

The second piece by Lozano-Hemmer is called Fiducial Voice Beacons and it is located in the British Science Museum. It is an interactive sound and light installation made out of beacons in the ceiling. This installation takes sound recordings and translates them into light waves. It’s meant to be a representation of the Information Age (and I’m thinking I might need to tell Dr. McClurken about this one the next time her teaches that class). To put it simply, I love this! It’s such a subtle yet interesting piece of art. You could easily miss it, thinking it is just lights, when really it’s part of the exhibit! I believe I also read somewhere that visitors are allowed to incorporate their own sound recordings into it, meaning they can create their own light sequences right there in the museum! That’s so cool!

The Pulse Room (2006)

Pulse Room by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.7

This third piece by Lozano-Hemmer is a bit older than the rest, but it was one I really liked so I decided to include it. The Pulse Room is an interactive installation that has roughly 300 iridescent light bulbs hanging in an orderly fashion from the ceiling. These bulbs are connected to an interactive panel that syncs up to a person’s heartbeat when touched. I really wanted to include a video of this one, because it’s very cool to look at, but WordPress would not let me embed the video without downloading it first. I don’t have much storage left on my website, so I’m just going to include a link here. This is an exhibit I would love to see in person. It’s exactly the kind of weirdly creative thing that draws my attention. I find it fascinating how something so simple can be so amazing, and I think this is something Lozano-Hemmer excels at.

A recurring theme I noticed about Lozano-Hemmer’s work is that he makes a lot of interactive installations that either hang down from or are situated in the ceiling. I really like that about his work. Instead of being limited to canvas or a photograph, he uses space to fit his artwork. Some of my favorite exhibits I’ve seen in Richmond and Washington D.C. use a similar concept, but using space to create art. I also really like how he places an emphasis on light and sound. I wish I could see some of his work in person. I can likely see the Speaking Tree some day (if I can find time to go to D.C.) but I don’t think I’ll be seeing much else anytime soon, because he has work in the U.K., Australia, Poland, Canada, Mexico, and more! He’s really been everywhere, and has left his mark. And I think that’s amazing!

  1. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, “Rafael Lozano-Hemmer – Biography,” Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, 1992,[]
  2. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, “Rafael Lozano-Hemmer – Biography,” Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, 1992,[]
  3. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, “Rafael Lozano-Hemmer – Biography,” Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, 1992,[]
  4. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, “Rafael Lozano-Hemmer – Biography,” Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, 1992,[]
  5. Planet Word Museum, “Speaking Willow,” Planet Word Museum, 2020,[]
  6. PFRY, “Atau Tanaka, Fiducial Voice Beacons: Action @ Science Museum Lates,” Goldsmiths Department of Computing Blog, November 26, 2014,[]
  7. Archive of Digital Art, “Pulse Room by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer,” ADA, 2006,[]

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