My parents were nightclub owners in Mexico so I grew up around salsa bands, transvestite shows, drunk artists and disco lights. After getting my degree in chemistry I worked for a few months in a corporate lab but I started hanging out with artists and musicians and we would do performance art first in a radio program and then in museums and festivals. I guess I went back to what was familiar. I am still very inspired by contemporary science, though, which I think is often way more bizarre than anything happening in art.
Many, but certainly not all, of my pieces are about self-representation. The public makes recordings which then become the content of the work itself. They "leave behind" their fingerprint, voice, heart-beat, breath or any other measure of their presence. In that sense the projects are public portraits. But I make no claims about community-building. On the contrary, I enjoy the differences and tensions that get underlined with this type of public agency.
Yes and this is very important: the work by definition needs to be out of my control. The most successful pieces always have an outcome that I did not anticipate. People tend to "personalise" the experience and thus the work is always in a state of "becoming" something, not being something predetermined.
Open Air was a complex work technologically but the basis of it, — visualising free-speech at a time where public liberties are very much curtailed — is a straight-forward aesthetic and political agenda. The project allowed anyone in Philadelphia to control 24 bright searchlights over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway by sending voice messages using a free phone app or an internet connection (free loaner smartphones were given to anyone who did not have his or her own). The lights' brightness, movement and position was controlled by live analysis of people's voices, their frequency, volume, intonation and so on. Tens of thousands of participants contributed to the project with everything from political messages, to poetry, yodeling, shout-outs and marriage proposals. This is all archived at www.openairphilly.net
Yes, at the studio we are trying to burn things with unimaginable computerised precision.
Agnes Martin, Chuck D, Luis Buñuel, and a long etcetera.
I would love to work on the border of the United States and Mexico. Many friends of mine have made important pieces for that context in the past 30 years and I have not had a chance yet. I have several ideas I would like to explore.
The two biggest things are an interactive work for the Park Avenue Tunnel in New York City featuring 360 spotlights and 180 loudspeakers and a solo exhibition at Borusan Contemporary in Istanbul which will run concurrently with the Istanbul Biennale in September and October.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is represented by OMR Gallery, Mexico City