Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

In Vectorial Elevation (1999-2000), Lozano-Hemmer created an interactive project that was first planned out as a celebration for the then upcoming year 2000. He set up eighteen searchlights in Mexico City's Zocalo Square and the light beams could be seen from a 15 km radius. Every 15 seconds, the lighting would change according to new participant's designs. The searchlights were connected by data cables and used Global Positioning System trackers. These searchlights were controlled by a three-dimensional web-based simulation program (Java 3D interface) to choreograph the light beam patterns and create light sculptures. Then these visuals on landscape were captured by digital cameras and the images and videos were broadcasted live online. On the website, any participant with internet access is able to design light sculptures for the actual landscape. Then each participant received a personalized web page via email with their images of their design, virtual renditions, and their information. The web pages were uncensored which allowed the participants to leave a variety of messages. There were around 800,000 participants from 89 countries for within two weeks for the project. Lozano-Hemmer later more installations in a similar nature as the Vectorial Elevation (, Mark Tribe).

"Lozano-Hemmer calls this type of performance 'Relational Architecture,' which he defines as 'the technological actualization of buildings with alien memory.' In other words, laypeople and passersby (who possess the 'alien' memories of outsiders) can construct new meanings for edifices, usually via technological tools -- such as Internet software and robotic lights... According to Lozano-Hemmer, 'light projections...can achieve the desired monumental scale, can be changed in real time, and their immateriality makes their deployment more logistically feasible'...Vectorial Elevation was hard to ignore because of its giant scale and inescapable presence. But Lozano-Hemmer describes his project as an 'anti-monument' that serves primarily as a platform for public self-expression" (Mark Tribe). Also, on Lozano-Hemmer's website (, he states that he makes an allusion to Sol LeWitt’s "art of instructions” as well as László Moholy-Nagy’s paintings by telephone in 1922.

The fact that the project was exhibited where there are naturally many people gathered in an open space coincides with the project's participatory nature in that people in Mexico City and many countries were able to participate in the same experience through the internet or through their own eyes. I like the concept where it is personal but at the same time public because Lozano-Hemmer offered the foundation of the program and the set up of the searchlights and then allowed any participant to create their own personalized lighting design, express themselves through text, and show their public. I was actually able to go to the website and explore how the interactive process worked. It gave a new perspective on how space and movement worked with the project's web-based program because I initially had seen the captured image of the actual searchlights shown in Mexico City. I was able to choose different settings, move through different specified areas, and explore variations for the light beam forms. The designs for the light beams are almost limited to certain settings so it seems that there is a limit to the participant's creative process but we can still direct the light in different angles and view it from different points of the location. I felt that an individual's text was also an interesting and expressive addition to personalize their designs. One of my concerns would be that some might concentrate more on the "spectacle." I looked at the list of Lozano-Hemmer's works and I liked the concepts of the Microphones, Reporters With Borders, Close-Up. Many of his projects seem to reflect on participation, interaction, changing through time, observation, records, etc. I think participating in the Microphones project would be an interesting experience.


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