On view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) from November 3, 2012, through February 3, 2013, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Frequency and Volume invites visitors to tune in and listen to different radio frequencies by using their own bodies in an interactive video and sound installation.
One of the most important international media artists to emerge in the 1990s, Mexican-born, Montreal-based artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer explores the intersection of architecture, media, and performance. Inspired by 1920s radio poetry experiments by the Mexican estridentista artists who championed action and social reform in their art, Frequency and Volume: Relational Architecture 9 (2003) was originally developed in response to the Mexican government shutting down informal or “pirate” radio stations in indigenous communities in the states of Chiapas and Guerrero. The piece raises questions about who has access to public space and who controls public communication. The installation is part of the artist’s series Relational Architecture (ongoing since 1997) and will mark the U.S. premiere of the work at SFMOMA. Organized by Curator of Media Arts Rudolf Frieling, the presentation is designed to visibly communicate the museum’s role as both a receiver and producer of frequencies in a larger network of Bay Area culture.
In the piece, a computerized tracking system detects visitors’ shadows, which are projected on a wall. The position and outline of the projected shadow determines the frequency scanned, and the size of each shadow controls the volume. The public and private radio waves become visualized as a data space. The installation can tune into any frequency between 150 kHz and 1.5 GHz, allowing visitors to hear not only to FM and AM, but air traffic control, short wave, cellular, satellite, wireless telecommunication systems, and radio navigation. Up to 48 frequencies can be tuned simultaneously, and the resulting sound environment forms a composition controlled by participants’ movements. The technical equipment is displayed in the first gallery as a studio environment and in the fourth-floor Sculpture Terrace opposite the galleries as a sculptural antennae tower.
“Lozano-Hemmer’s practice is as much related to innovative and participatory uses of new media as it is an engagement with the politics of public space,” Frieling explains.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Frequency and Volume is a part of the 2012 ZERO1 Biennial, a dynamic network of more than 100 exhibitions, performances, public art projects, and events from Silicon Valley and the Bay Area and beyond that fosters and celebrates the creative fusion of contemporary art and technology, taking place from September 12 through December 8, 2012.
In addition to this exhibition, SFMOMA visitors will have the opportunity to see Lozano-Hemmer’s responsive light installation in the exhibition Field Conditions, organized by Joseph Becker, SFMOMA assistant curator of architecture and design. Lozano-Hemmer’s work was first exhibited at SFMOMA as part of the 2008 group exhibition The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now, which featured his participatory sound recording–based work Microphones (2008).
In conjunction with the exhibition, SFMOMA will host a special conversation with Lozano-Hemmer on radio technology and other subjects on Thursday, November 1, 2012. For more information, see the event website.
About Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
Lozano-Hemmer was born in Mexico City in 1967 and is currently based in Montréal, Canada, where he received a BSc in physical chemistry from Concordia University in 1989. His work has been commissioned for events such as the Millennium Celebrations in Mexico City (1999); the Cultural Capital of Europe in Rotterdam (2001); the UN World Summit of Cities in Lyon (2003); the opening of the YCAM Center in Japan (2003); the Expansion of the European Union in Dublin (2004); the memorial for the Tlatelolco Student Massacre in Mexico City (2008); the 50th Anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum in New York (2009); and the Winter Olympics in Vancouver (2010). In 2007 he was the first artist to officially represent Mexico at the Venice Biennale with a solo exhibition. He has also shown at art biennials in Sydney, Liverpool, Shanghai, Istanbul, Seville, Seoul, Havana, and New Orleans. His work is in private and public collections, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Jumex collection in Mexico, the Museum of 21st Century Art in Kanazawa, the Daros Foundation in Zürich, and the Tate in London. He has received two BAFTA British Academy Awards for Interactive Art in London; a Golden Nica at the Prix Ars Electronica in Austria; a distinction at the SFMOMA Webby Awards in San Francisco; an “Artist of the year” Rave Award from Wired Magazine, a Rockefeller fellowship; the Trophée des Lumières in Lyon; and an International Bauhaus Award in Dessau.