Australia's first solo exhibition by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art

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Australia's first solo exhibition by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Pulse Room 2006,installation view, The Laboral Art Centre, Gijon, Spain, 2007. Incandescent light bulbs, voltage controllers, heart rate sensors, computer and metal sculpture. Image courtesy the artist © the artist. Photo: Antimodular Research.

SYDNEY.- The Museum of Contemporary Art presents Australia’s first solo exhibition by one of the world’s best-known electronic artists. Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has attracted global attention for his highly interactive and complex digital artworks.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Recorders features 12 recent pieces by the artist, including two new works. Public engagement is critical to the work - visitors play the role of performer, leaving traces of themselves, whether it is objects from their pockets, questions they have typed, the pace of their heartbeat, their voice or their image. Trained in physical chemistry, the artist uses robotics, projections, sound, internet and cellphone links, sensors and other devices to create critical and poetic platforms for public interaction. In the process, the viewers become the viewed.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer explains: ‘In Recorders, artworks hear, see and feel the public, they exhibit awareness and record and replay memories entirely obtained during the show. Using advanced surveillance and biometric technologies, the pieces either depend on participation to exist or predatorily gather information on the public as they go through the exhibition. In all cases the artwork compiles a database of behaviours that then becomes the artwork itself. I am always delighted when a visitor takes over an artwork and personalises it, like they might take over a stage or a public square.’

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Recorders is part of the Sydney International Art Series, bringing the world’s most outstanding exhibitions to Australia. It has been made possible with the support of Destination NSW through Events NSW.

MCA Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, says: ‘Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s work has captivated and fascinated audiences all over the world, especially young people. Recorders is a world-class example of how digital technologies can be used to create innovative art which inspires, involves and stimulates. However, the exhibition is more than spectacle. As visitors move through, they notice an ominous or predatory overtone. The work physically and emotionally engages people and raises questions about systems of surveillance that are part and parcel of 21st century life. The artist challenges the systems which track, predict and at times control our life. ‘

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer made headlines in the United Kingdom in 2008 for his large-scale installation which projected video images into the shadows of visitors in Trafalgar Square, London. He was also responsible for the world’s largest interactive artwork, for which hundreds of thousands of participants used the internet to shine searchlights over Mexico City.

Highlights of this exhibition include Pulse Room (2006) which was premiered in Puebla, Mexico and shown to critical acclaim in the Mexican pavilion for the Venice Biennale in 2007. This compelling work is made up of 100 light bulbs which are activated by a sensor to flash at the exact rhythm of participants’ heart rates. People on People (2010), on show in Australia for the very first time, is a major installation inspired by portraiture and shadow plays, which turns the gallery’s temporary exhibition space into a scanning device where live and recorded imagery is blended automatically.

Two new works will be presented for the first time in Sydney. Pletoria (2011) comprises a set of interactive displays that automatically capture, store and playback images of the eyes of viewers. Tape Recorders (2011) is a dramatic installation comprising 100 robotic measuring tapes that record how long visitors stand in a particular location. The metal tapes rise upwards according to the length of time being spent in a single location, and crash to the floor when the person being monitored leaves that part of the gallery.

The Sydney exhibition is an expanded version of Recorders presented at Manchester Art Gallery from September 2010 to January 2011.

Lozano-Hemmer was born in Mexico City in 1967. In 1989 he received a B.Sc. in Physical Chemistry from Concordia University in Montréal, Canada. He defines himself as an ‘electronic artist’, who develops interactive installations that are at the intersection of architecture and performance art. His main interest is in creating platforms for public participation, using technologies such as robotics, computerised surveillance or telematic networks. Inspired by phantasmagoria, carnival and animatronics, his light and shadow works have attracted attention all over the world.

The artist’s work has been commissioned for events such as the Millennium Celebrations in Mexico City (1999), the Cultural Capital of Europe in Rotterdam (2001), the UN World Summit of Cities in Lyon (2003), the opening of the YCAM Center in Japan (2003), the Expansion of the European Union in Dublin (2004), the memorial for the Tlatelolco Student Massacre in Mexico City (2008), the 50th Anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum in New York (2009) and the Winter Olympics in Vancouver (2010).

The artist’s kinetic sculptures, responsive environments, video installations and photographs have been shown in museums in four dozen countries. In 2007 he was the first artist to officially represent Mexico at the Venice Biennale with a solo exhibition at Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel. His work is in private and public collections such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Jumex collection in Mexico, the Museum of 21st Century Art in Kanazawa, the Daros Foundation in Zürich and TATE in London.

The recipient of two BAFTA British Academy Awards for Interactive Art in London, the artist has also been awarded a Golden Nica at the Prix Ars Electronica in Austria, a distinction at the SFMOMA Webby Awards in San Francisco, “Artist of the year” Rave Award in Wired Magazine, a Rockefeller fellowship, the Trophée des Lumières in Lyon and an international Bauhaus Award in Dessau.

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