See Inside Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Spectacular Installation That Spins Art Out of Its Atmosphere

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Its been a long time since art was restricted to walls and pedestals, but artists at the cutting-edge of immersive experiences are still finding new ways to create layered encounters with sound, movement, and touch. These elements have made by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer an international hit with audiences.

The Mexican-Canadian artist invites visitors to step into a physical concept that was once just an idea in the mind of 19th century British philosopher and inventor Charles Babbage. “The air itself is one vast library on whose pages are for ever written all that man has ever said or woman whispered,” wrote Babbage, marveling at how the atmosphere around us captures our every gesture and utterance, however small or mumbled. He even believed that air molecules stored this information, and that they could be the key to rewind the passage of time and experience these moments again.

Inspired by how this “vast library” might work in reality, Lozano-Hemmer has brought together a collection of interactive installations that each make use of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics. One is , a screen made of 1,600 ultrasonic atomizers that uses water vapor to write any word spoken into its voice recognition system. Another, , is a sound environment that plays waves of familiar sounds like wind, fire, water, birdsong, and bells while visualizing these tonal changes with LED lights.

Lozano-Hemmer is known for his “anti-monument” to victims of Covid-19 and a light show over the U.S.-Mexico border, but he believes that this work may be his most ambitious. “ Memory explores [Babbage’s] idea today, when the dream of perfect recollection is one of the defining conditions of our digital life, and the air that we breathe has become a battleground for the future of our planet,” he said.

The work debuted in the U.K. at Manchester International Festival in 2019 and has since traveled to the Carolina Performing Arts theatre in the U.S. The latest stop on its global tour is Australia, where it is headlining the Sydney Science Festival at the Powerhouse Museum until August 20.

See more images from the installation below.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Atmospheric Memory (2019). Photo: Zan Wimberley.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Atmospheric Memory (2019). Photo: Zan Wimberley.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Atmospheric Memory (2019). Photo: Zan Wimberley.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Atmospheric Memory (2019). Photo: Zan Wimberley.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Atmospheric Memory (2019). Photo: Zan Wimberley.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Atmospheric Memory (2019). Photo: Zan Wimberley.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Atmospheric Memory (2019). Photo: Zan Wimberley.

 

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