The Pulse of a Shadow

Playing with Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s artwork.

In the Hirshhorn’s largest interactive technology exhibition to date, three major installations from Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Pulse series came together for the artist’s DC debut. A Mexican Canadian artist known for straddling the line between art, technology, and design, Lozano-Hemmer filled the Museum’s entire Second Level with immersive environments that used heart-rate sensors to create kinetic and audiovisual experiences from visitors’ own biometric data. Over the course of six months, Pulse animated the vital signs of hundreds of thousands of participants.

With Lozano-Hemmer’s trademark sensitivities to audience engagement and architectural scale, each installation captured biometric signatures and visualized them as repetitive sequences of flashing lights, panning soundscapes, rippling waves, and animated fingerprints. These intimate “portraits,” or “snapshots,” of electrical activity were then added to a live archive of prior recordings to create an environment of syncopated rhythms. At a time when biometry is increasingly used for identification and control, this data constituted a new way of representing both anonymity and community.

The exhibition began with Pulse Index (2010), which was presented at its largest scale to date. The work recorded participants’ fingerprints at the same time that it detected their heart rates, displaying data from the last 10,000 users on a scaled grid of massive projections. 

Pulse was on view at The Hirshhorn from November 2018 to April 2019.

March 18th, 2019

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