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Rafael Lozano-Hemmer Biography

Mexican-Canadian media artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has made his mark on the contemporary art world through installations that bridge technology and public participation, leading him to become the first representative for Mexico at the Venice Biennale in 2007.

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Early Years

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer was born in 1967 in Mexico City. His parents owned a nightclub.

Rather than studying art, he focussed on the sciences, graduating with a degree in physical chemistry from Concordia University, Montreal in 1989. His involvement in creative circles and his upbringing amongst musicians inspired him to pursue visual art, starting out as a performance artist.

He lives and works between Montreal and Madrid.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer Artworks

Relational Architecture

Lozano-Hemmer's background in science buoys his technological practice. He has worked with many kinds of technologies as mediums, including digital surveillance, telematics, biometrics, software, robotics and lights. His practice exists in the liminal space between architecture and performance, describing it as 'relational architecture'.

Rather than being site-specific, he describes his installations as 'relationship specific'. Much of his work tours in various locations across the globe, each time forming relations with a new community.

Public participation is an essential aspect of Lozano-Hemmer's practice. His work serves to forge connections between people and places using technology as a conduit. A particular example of this is the installation Border Tuner (2019) on the US-Mexico border. In this work, participants in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua and El Paso, Texas activated bridges of lights with their voices.

A Human Element

Although his work hinges on technology, it relies on the human body as well. Like Border Tuner's engagement with the human voice, much of his work requires a kind of corporeal involvement. The large-scale installations in his 2018 solo exhibition Pulse at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC, for example, were all activated by visitors' heart rates and fingerprints.

Lozano-Hemmer's entry for the Venice Biennale also used heart rate sensors. Entitled Pulse Room, visitors' pulses activated hanging lightbulbs to flash at the rate of their heartbeat. The 2013 installation Vicious Circular Breathing was similarly powered by visitors, but through their breathing, creating a sealed room of recycled exhalations.

The unpredictability and improvisation that follow viewer participation is key to Lozano-Hemmer's practice. As the artist told Ocula Magazine in 2013, 'the work by definition needs to be out of my control,' and participants allow it to be in 'a state of "becoming" something, not being something predetermined' by virtue of their engagement.


Lozano-Hemmer is particularly interested in exploring surveillance and data collection in his practice, positioning him amongst contemporaries such as Trevor Paglen. One example is 2005's Under Scan, in which a passer-by would trigger a video projection of a person within their shadow; the video-portrait was then programmed to make eye-contact with the viewer.

Public Commissions

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has had many high-profile public commissions all over the world. These include the activation of the Raurica Roman Theatre, Basel (2018); the pre-opening exhibition at the Guggenheim, Abu Dhabi (2015); Vancouver Olympics (2010); Student Massacre Memorial, Tlatelolco (2008); Expansion of the European Union, Dublin (2004); and the Millennium Celebrations, Mexico City (1999).


Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's work is represented in prestigious collections on a global scale. Some highlights include: Tate, London; Singapore Art Museum; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Musée national des beaux-arts de Québec; MUAC, Mexico City; 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Awards and Accolades

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has many accolades to his name; these include Compagnon des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec (2016); Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts, Canada Council for the Arts, Ottawa (2015); BAFTA British Academy Award for Interactive Art, London (2005); Distinction, SFMOMA Webby Awards, San Francisco (2004); Artist/Performer of the year, Wired Magazine Rave Awards, San Francisco (2003); Rockefeller-Ford Fellowship, New York City (2003); Trophée des Lumières, Lyon (2003); International Bauhaus Award 2002, 1st Prize, Dessau (2002); and Interactive Art Golden Nica, Ars Electronica, Linz (2000).


Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions internationally.

Solo exhibitions include: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: A Crack in the Hourglass, An Ongoing COVID-19 Memorial, Brooklyn Museum (2021—2022); Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Unstable Presence, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2021—2022); Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Pulse Topology, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri (2021—2022); and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Atmospheric Memory, Manchester International Festival, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina (2021);

Group exhibitions include: The Human Image: Art, Identities and Symbolism, Caixa Forum, Madrid, (2022); Art in the Age of Anxiety, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, (2020); The Future and the Arts, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, (2019—2020); Level of Confidence, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2019—2020); 12th Shanghai Biennale (2018—2019); and Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today, Institute of Contemporary Art Boston (2018).

Website and Instagram

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's website can be found here and his Instagram can be found here.


Articles on Rafael Lozano-Hemmer have been published in various publications, including Art in America, The Guardian, and The New York Times.

Rachel Kubrick | Ocula | 2022

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
featured artworks

Hormonium by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer contemporary artwork moving image
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer Hormonium, 2022 Custom-generative code, computer, display
Pace Gallery
Pulse Topology by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer contemporary artwork sculpture
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer Pulse Topology, 2021 3,000 LED filament lightbulbs, DMX controllers, custom-made photoplethysmography sensors, computers
Pace Gallery

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
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Pace Gallery contemporary art gallery in 540 West 25th Street, New York, United States
Pace Gallery Hong Kong, Beijing, London, Los Angeles, New York +6

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