just to remind some of us that there is a world that exists outside of London, this weekend the manchester art gallery played host to the premiere of rafael lozano-hemmer’s latest creativity, recorder. as the title of this exhibition suggests, lozano-hemmer uses public participation and records their interactions, resulting in live visual artworks.
mexican-canadian rafael made a name for himself in britain with his under scan project which was held at the tate modern from 2005 to 2008. this large-scale public display involved video portraits of anonymous people being projected onto the ground at trafalgar square. the portraits were then covered in an overlooking white light so that the passersby would then see only the shadows.
the scientist turned artist, who lets his love of technology beckon through his work, has now turned his attention to the capabilities, faults and dangers from the use of digital media on a modern society. the element of ‘crowd sourcing’ gives a playful and open sense to the atmosphere, however there is a more predatory nature at work. he uses technology that is employed by governments and corporations to profile, control and predict the behaviours in the name of efficiency and safety. this, his central theme of surveillance, formulates an exhibit that focuses on the effects of digital media on the masses.
lozano-hemmer is emphasising the importance of technology in our current day and age. a time where google have snapped you mowing your lawn on camera. where banks have built virtual economies, and social networks encourage you to never see any of your friends past a screen. therefore the main approach of recorder is by the misuse of technology, creating experiences of connection and confusion through repetition, performance and irony.
i found the opening very intriguing as i delved into the world of the watcher. i was left feeling almost naked, aware that my every move was basically being monitored. seven microphones were set up to provide a piece that records a message, then plays back to the incoming messages. this idea of scrambling thought really left me bewildered as i lost my message amongst the others poured into a system. seminal pieces such as the ‘pulse room’ were possibly the most inspiring. lozano-hemmer uses a large pitch black room to then suspend hundreds of symmetrical light bulbs. from there he takes recorded pulse rates of the audience to create a flashing heartbeat around the room. each glowing bulb represents a person’s pulse and the overall result is one that portrays the heartbeat of a city, to mesmerising effect.
this celebration of digital connectivity is part of the manchester weekender commencing on the 1st – 3rd october. it either shows us that we are involuntarily dependent on technology or gives us a stark warning about the surveillance society we currently live in.
[photo: antimodular research]
[for more on cctv culture, see morgan hewitt’s watching them watching us at poxymash.com]