Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has launched in Barcelona, “Megalodemocrat”, the documentary following the last decade of his extraordinary career.
Meanwhile his works are being exhibited around the world. With a solo exhibition in the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, and a powerful presence in Untitled Art Miami he has shown his ability to overcome the atavistic suspicion of the big art fairs for electronic art.
There was never such a good name. I mean Megalodemocrat – the film that covers the last ten years of the career of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (Mexico City, 1968) while sketching out a multifaceted portrait of the character and working method of this artist, who is famous for his interactive works of enormous dimensions that are capable of involving the public in the transformation of urban spaces, historic buildings and huge expanses of sky.
That is where the ‘megalodemocrat’ comes in – from the capacity of involving absolutely anyone, independent of their age, culture or technological knowledge, in an artistic event full of meaning and great fun to boot.
Lozano-Hemmer takes political art to a new level, utopia becomes reality and ideas are converted into practice. Far from the pedentery and masturbatory practices of so much art self-defined as political, from his beginnings Lozano-Hemmer has concentrated on giving the power to the people, who become the users of the works which they can both control and enjoy as both viewer and protagonist.
It is impossible to forget the sky of Mexico City transformed into a huge canvas for the change of the millennium thanks to Alzado Vectorial. This installation, which has been presented in many cities, offer an intuitive interface so that anyone, using their computer, can create a light sculpture in the sky, controlling the giant robotic projectors whose rays travel for miles. Information about participation is included on his website so you can see that people are creative and take part in these enriching activities given the chance.
he turns the urban space into a giant stage
The shadow play used in different projects such as the iconic Body Movies, shows how the artist manages to turn the urban space into a giant stage, allowing hundreds of by- passers to abandon their stressed and self-absorbed path for a moment to show their comical or dramatic side, becoming the protagonists in a series of improvised gags between complete unknowns.
The number of times these pieces have been set up in different cities around the world only goes to confirm another extraordinary side of this artist: using new media art, linked to technology or as some like to call it, the cliché as novelty. A piece can be either good or bad, but who would call Boltanski old? The works of Lozano-Hemmer are already atemporal, however innovative is the technology used to create them. For that reason, they form part of the most important collections of contemporary art museum in the world, constantly selected for their group exhibitions and recognised in exhaustive solo exhibitions.
This is the case with Pulse, which can be seen in the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington until the end of April, where biometric technologies are used to involve visitors to participate through their heartbeats and fingerprints.
All of this is seen in Megalodemocrat by Benjamin Duffield – the sold-out event for the Dart Festival, which is the beginning in Barcelona of a journey through numerous festivals and museums. Filmed in 30 cities over ten years this 90-minute documentary demonstrates the success of participation, but also the tension and fear of it all going up in smoke, when something doesn’t work, either because the security cameras which have become the tools for the creation of the work are put out by the wind, or because the internet connection fails.
The first stop was in London’s Trafalgar Square with Under Scan, which allows interaction with characters which emerge from the paving stones when the passers-by cover them with their shadows. The second was in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Mexico, in Voz alta, an audiovisual speaker where people could leave their memories and statements in commemoration of the massacre of Tlatelolco in 1968.
It is not hard to imagine the pressure involved in opening up the tunnel in New York’s Park Avenue for the first time in a hundred years to install Voice Tunnel, a work which allowed people to fill it with their voices, songs and messages.
Resolving the problems of the most sophisticated technology with the most surprising low-tech fixes involves many hours of experimentation and a team of highly dedicated and brilliant minds. So it is excellent news that Lozano-Hemmer is now in Untitled Art Miami with smaller but equally committed works from two galleries: bitforms in Nueva York and Max Estrella in Madrid. Hopefully this also means that something is also changing, albeit slowly, the wary art market.