Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, "Pulse Index", 2010. Photo: Kate Russel.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Preabsence

The first solo exhibition of the Mexican-Canadian artist in Switzerland will show a selection of his interactive installations and works, which playfully tackle the themes of surveillance, perception and deception.


09.06.2016 - 28.08.2016

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, 1984x1984, 2015, screenshot.

With "Preabsence", HeK presents the first solo exhibition of the Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer in Switzerland. The show focuses on works dealing with the complex interrelationship between presence and absence, motifs usually understood as mutually exclusive or opposites, but here presented as echoes of each other within the tangible traces that data, memory and visitor interaction leave behind.

Cameras, tracking systems and biometric techniques have now transformed the public space into a metered matrix where every activity can be registered, stored and analyzed. Lozano-Hemmer makes use of this technology, but instead of tracking for pre-emptive control he uses it for connecting disparate planes of experience. By creating platforms for participation and self-representation he offers critical, playful and poetic installations that seek complicity and that by definition are out of control, ambiguous and indeterminate. 

The show includes poignant political works such as “Level of Confidence” (2015) a face-recognition camera that constantly searches for the missing 43 students kidnapped by the Mexican government in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. In the piece, military and police identification algorithms compare the image of the public with those of the students, finding which student's facial features look most like the participant’s and giving a "level of confidence" on how accurate the match is, in percent. The project aims to make visible the tragic disappearance of the students, creating empathic links and, crucially, to generate income for the affected community, as Lozano-Hemmer directs all proceeds of the project to them. 

Also on display will be “Pulse Room” (2006), an installation where hundreds of incandescent light bulbs blink to the heart rate of participants who hold a pulse sensor. Shown for the first time in Switzerland, the piece was exhibited in the first Mexican Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007 and is currently in the collection of several Museums around the World, including MoMA in New York. In “Pulse Room” the visitors leave their digital traces behind in the installation and their presence lingers even when they are already absent. The technology makes them accomplices in a game comprising recording and playback, presence and absence. Likewise, the sound piece "Microphone" (2008) consists of a vintage microphone that has been modified so that inside its head is a tiny loudspeaker and a circuit board connected to a hidden control computer. When a public member speaks into the microphone, it records his or her voice and immediately plays back the voice of a previous participant, as an echo from the past. 

The piece "1984x1984" was conceived as an homage to George Orwell's dystopian novel, 30 years after his predicted date for the collapse of privacy, the work shows a grid of hundreds of thousands of random numbers extracted from addresses photographed by Google Street View. As the viewer walks in front of that immense variety of images, his or her silhouette is prepresented within the display and all the numbers inside it count down to the number 1984. 

The show features eleven pieces in a variety of media, from sound-sculptures to data-driven displays. Many of the pieces depend on participation to exist and their content is entirely “crowdsourced”. “PREABSENCE” includes the World premiere of “Redundant Assembly” a reactive display which creates a composite portrait of up to nine public members, and also the European premiere of three other works.

Lozano-Hemmer perverts the intended application of technologies and with them transforms the supposedly neutral exhibition space into a place of social interaction. This endows his works a special magic of their own, or, as he says himself, “... with digital technologies I believe that the aura has returned, and with a vengeance, because what digital technology emphasizes, through interactivity, is the multiplicity of reading, the idea that a piece of art is created by the singular participation of the users.”

Artworks courtesy of the artist and his galleries: bitforms (New York), Carroll/Fletcher (London), Max Estrella (Madrid) and Art Bärtschi & Cie (Geneva).

Guided tours:
Sundays, 15:00

Special opening hours during Art Basel:
Mon-Sun, 13.06.-19.06.2016, 10:00-20:00
Tue, 14.06.2016, 10:00-24:00

Guided Tours during Art Basel:
Wed-Fri, 15.06.-17.06.2016, 11:00-13:00
Short Talks, Drop in and get involved.
Sat, 18.06.2016, 11:00; Sun, 19.06.2016, 15:00
Public guided tours

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, 1984x1984, 2014, Photo: Franz Wamhof
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Airborne 3: Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, 2015, Photo: Franz Wamhof
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Call on Water, 2016, Photo: Franz Wamhof
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Call on Water, 2016, Photo: Franz Wamhof
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Microphone, 2008, Photo: Franz Wamhof
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Pulse Index, 2010, Photo: Franz Wamhof
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Pulse Index, 2010, Photo: Franz Wamhof
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Pulse Room, 2006, Photo: Franz Wamhof
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Redundant Assembly, 2016, Photo: Franz Wamhof
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Redundant Assembly, 2016, Photo: Franz Wamhof
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Sway, 2016, Photo: Franz Wamhof

The exhibition is supported by

Embassy of Canada


Museums Night 2018

Fri, 19.01.2018, 18:00

Visite Guidée en Français


Lynn Hershman Leeson:...