Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer at Haunch of Venison London

Posted in Reviews by mingjiuntsai on November 18, 2008

‘Human Technology’ is a famous slogan of Nokia, a communicational technology company. Whether its communicational products are really ‘human’ or not, this phrase indeed represents the close relationship between technology and humanity in the present time. The issue of participation in art has been discussed for a long time. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s solo exhibition shows us the importance and influence of technology with art-participation. Going further, we can think about if it is ‘human technology’ or ‘technological humanity’ after experiencing the show.

The two works Microphone (2008) and Alpha Blend, Shadow Box 7 (2008) both have the intention to break the boundaries of time by way of the audience’s involvement. If you speak into the microphone, you will hear the previous participants’ recording coming out from the speaker instead of your own voice. Walking toward the four square screens on the wall, you can see your images on the monitors. However, it is not an ordinary simultaneous recording. Your image shows up with earlier visitors’ images and all the figures keep shifting as if time moves on inside the screens. It is a strange sensation. Like we are somewhat having a conversation and sharing the same spatial association with those we have never met.

The two works on the first floor are both very playful. Facing Glories of Accounting (2005), you will see a palm emerge from the bottom of the screen. As more visitors encounter the work, more palms show up, and each of them turns towards the direction the visitor stands. Isn’t it like a video game? Palms show up and down, and you can move your body to make ‘your’ palm to turn to ‘others’ palms which creates a parallel relationship – the real body interrelation out of the screen and the fictional animation’s connection in the screen. Less Than Three (2008) shifts the transport of voice into visible movement of light. Speak into one intercom and press the bottom, and the technology will convey your voice to the other side of the room. The pathway of the transmitting is random, and you are able to ‘see’ your voice ‘moving’ on the labyrinthine fluorescent-tube net.

Reporters With Borders (2008), which occupies the first part of the second floor, is a spectacle. Thousands of TV reporters’ images are juxtaposed and categorized into two sections: Mexican/ US, light-skinned/ dark-skinned or male/ female. They are all paused, and while you walk forward the screen-wall, those individual images, which are covered under the shadow of your body’s shape, start to broadcast.  Your body movement becomes the switch of these reporters. The closer you approach, the bigger your shadow becomes and more soundtracks play at the same time. The last part of the exhibition is Airport Cluster Plot (2001) and Pulse Tank (2008). The final work uses sensors around the tank to receive the participant’s heartbeats and translate the pulse into vibration on the water. The participant can therefore see the rhythm of his heartbeats become ripples in the tank.  With the reflection onto the floor and ceiling, the sensation is transferred to a visualized impression.

Lozano-Hemmer’s works exist only with the audience’s involvements, and they seem to exemplify perfectly for participative art. The essence of the works is to achieve the concepts through participation with the aid of technology. These technologies of detecting, recording and broadcasting exc. bring the absorbing human reactions and shape the works complete. We may see how amazing technology can govern artworks. These works cannot happen without any of the techniques. For example, what did happen in the exhibition is, the speaker of Microphone does not operate. Under this situation, the Microphone is nothing more than a microphone. Hence, the exhibition can also excellently show the un-breakable bond of technology and our ordinary life. People seem cannot live without technological products anymore. The significant idea brought out from this exhibition becomes ‘technological humanity’ rather than ‘human technology.’

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Haunch of Venison London 

15 October – 29 November 2008


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