Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is one of the most prominent international artists working in Canada today. Over the past few decades, he has earned a reputation for large-scale, participatory installations that frequently incorporate technology, light and the architecture of public spaces. These “anti-monuments,” which are often displayed in outdoor spaces to optimize their impact and accessibility, have garnered considerable critical and media attention.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s work has gained international prominence and is regularly shown by major art institutions, but he has had few exhibitions in Montreal, where he lives and works (despite the city’s global reputation for its vibrant media culture).
More than a mid-career survey, the exhibition offers a new conceptual perspective on the artist’s work over the past decade, exploring its poetic and political dimensions from the standpoint of one of its central principles: the notion of co-presence. This concept refers first and foremost to the coexistence of voices, perspectives and singular experiences in Lozano-Hemmer’s works: to the interactions between strangers, to the situations elicited by the dialogic devices deployed by the work. However, co-presence also evokes other, more asymmetrical relationships, such as forced cohabitations and power relations, and speaks to the interplay of gazes and bodies subjected to contemporary techniques of surveillance and control. In addition to other major works, the exhibition will present Subtitled Public (2005), Vicious Circular Breathing (2013), Sphere Packing (2014), Pan-Anthem (2014), and Zoom Pavilion (a collaboration with Krzysztof Wodiczko, 2015).
The exhibition is a co-production of the MAC and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). It is co-curated by Rudolf Frieling, curator of media arts at SFMOMA, and Lesley Johnstone, curator and head of exhibitions and education at the MAC, with François LeTourneux, associate curator at the MAC.
- Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has already left his mark on the MAC with two spectacular installations. As part of the Québec Triennial 2011, he lit up the sky above the Quartier des Spectacles with Articulated Intersect. Relational Architecture 18, a major work designed specifically for the Place des Festivals. In 2014, he also presented Pulse Room.
- In June 2016, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer was named a Companion of the Ordre des arts et des lettres du Québec by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer was born in Mexico in 1967. He was the first artist to represent Mexico at the Venice Biennale, with an exhibition at Palazzo Van Axel in 2007. He has also shown at biennials and triennials in Cuenca, Havana, Istanbul, Kochi, Liverpool, Melbourne (National Gallery of Victoria), Montreal, Moscow, New Orleans, New York (International Center of Photography), Seoul, Seville, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney. Lozano-Hemmer’s artistic production has been the subject of monographs and performances in numerous institutions, including MUAC in Mexico City (2015), SFMOMA (2012), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney (2011), the Manchester Art Gallery (2010), the Guggenheim Museum (2009) and the Barbican Centre in London (2008). Collections holding his work include the MoMA (New York), Tate (London), MAC (Montreal), SFMOMA (San Francisco), MONA (Hobart), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, D.C.), Borusan Contemporary (Istanbul), ZKM (Karlsruhe) and MUAC (Mexico City). He is represented by bitforms gallery (New York), Art Bärtschi & Cie (Geneva) and Max Estrella (Madrid).
The interest in performance and the arts that we see in Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s works goes back to his childhood in Mexico City, where his parents were nightclub owners. The young Rafael was immersed in the world of music, show business and the performing arts, rubbing shoulders with highly unconventional characters and the leading names on the artistic scene. Meeting the great Celia Cruz in 1973, when he was six, was a particular highlight.
Photo: Rudy Calzado album recorded at the Salsa en Los Infiernos, the club owned by Lozano-Hemmer’s parents (1978).
Studies in chemistry
As a child, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer spent time with his grandfather, who had a keen interest in chemistry. It was in his garage converted into a workshop and laboratory that Rafael developed his love for science. Some years later (1994), after graduating from Concordia with a degree in chemistry, he published an article in The Journal of Organic Chemistry (American Chemical Society), along with three colleagues. Following this accomplishment, he left the field of science, albeit only partly, as it would continue to be present in his work.
Structure chimique de la cyclodextrine. Stanisław Skowron, Wikimédia
Presentation of Vectorial Elevation
First presentation of Vectorial Elevation on the Zócalo (Plaza de la Constitución), in Mexico City, to celebrate the arrival of the year 2000. Consisting of 18 searchlights, the installation changed into a new light sculpture every 12 to 15 seconds. These sculptures were created by participants via a website set up by the artist. Each design was transformed in situ into a giant light sculpture in the sky over the Zócalo, then photographed and posted on a web page. The installation not only enabled every participant to alter the landscape, it also created virtual encounters between hundreds of individuals around the world. Over a two-week period, 800,000 people from 89 countries took part in the project. It was subsequently presented in Spain, Ireland, France and Canada, during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Vectorial Elevation, Relational Architecture 4, 1999
Zócalo Square, Mexico City, Mexico
Xenon robotic searchlights, four webcams, Linux servers, GPS, Java 3D DMX interface
© Rafael Lozano-Hemmer / SODRAC 2018
Photo: Martin Vargas
Britsh Academy Award
In 2002, Lozano-Hemmer won his first BAFTA Award, for Body Movies. The BAFTAs celebrate excellence, reward inspiring projects, nurture new talent and enable learning and creative collaboration.
Body Movies transforms public space with interactive projections covering between 400 and 1,800 square metres. Photographic portraits, previously taken in the host city, are shown on the screens. The portraits only appear inside the projected shadows of passersby, whose silhouettes can measure between two and twenty-five metres depending on how close or far they are from the light sources. The overall effect is a play between the animated shadows of the passersby and the projections of the photographs. A video surveillance tracking system triggers new portraits that gradually replace the previous ones, inviting the public to interact with these new images.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Body Movies, Relational Architecture 6, 2001
Schouwburgplein Square, Rotterdam, Netherlands, Cultural Capital of Europe Festival © Rafael Lozano-Hemmer / SODRAC 2018 Photo: Jan Sprij
Interactive Art Distinction
In 2002, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer won a prestigious Ars Electronica award in the Interactive Art category for his Vectorial Elevation project.
Ars Electronica recognizes the most innovative projects that are radically different and have an immediate impact on society.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Vectorial Elevation, Relational Architecture 4, 1999
Vitoria-Gasteiz, Basque Country, Spain, 2002 Photo: David Quintas
British Academy Award
In 2005, Lozano-Hemmer won a second BAFTA Award, for Frequency and Volume.
Frequency and Volume enables participants to tune in and listen to different radio frequencies using their own body movements. A computerized tracking system detects participants’ shadows and projects them on a wall in the exhibition space. Depending on their position and size, the shadows determine the choice of frequency and the volume. The frequencies heard include air traffic, FM and AM radio, shortwave, cellular, CB and more. Up to 48 frequencies can be tuned in simultaneously. This piece visualizes the radioelectric spectrum and turns the human body into an antenna.
The installation questions the way radio frequencies are assigned in our democratic countries, and the lack of space provided for community, experimental or artistic radio.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Frequency and Volume, Relational Architecture 9, 2003
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California, United States, 2012 Photo: Johnna Arnold Photography
Partners and Acknowledgments
The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) is a provincially owned corporation funded by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec. It receives additional funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts. With respect to this exhibition, the MAC warmly thanks co-organizer San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the collections that lent artworks: Tate Modern (London), Borusan Contemporary (Istanbul), CIFO (Miami) and Giverny (Montréal). Special thanks also go to the presenting partner, La Presse. The MAC also gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Tequilart, supplier partner, as well as that of its media partners, The Gazette and Publicité Sauvage. The MAC also thanks Kartell Montréal for its collaboration.
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