Seeing Sounds: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Ibiayi Briggs
Aug 20, 2013 11:16PM
Voz Alta Video and Prototype, 2008
bitforms gallery

"What should I say? What should I say? What should I say?" 

"The Chamber of Secrets is open."

"If a voice speaks in a light and no one is around to heart it, does it make a sound?"

These were some of the sounds that echoed down the Park Ave. Tunnel last Saturday morning. People had waited in line for hours to experience Voice Tunnel, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's installation in the usually pedestrian-restricted  midtown tunnel. The interactive piece encouraged visitors to speak into a box that recorded and relayed their sounds down a corridor of speakers and corresponding bands of light. Visitors were welcomed to the rumbling din of voices both recorded and live, with flashes of light punctuating moments of darkness. 

While Voice Tunnel allowed New Yorkers to explore a hidden part of the city, another Rafael Lozano-Hemmer study of the interaction between light and sound takes on history. Voz Alta is a prototype for a memorial marking the 40th anniversary of the Tlatelolco massacre, a 1968 protest in Mexico City one week before the city hosted the Olympics where protesting students, civilians, and bystanders where killed. A megaphone located at the site of the protests amplifies voices, which relay beams of light to the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which then relay three more searchlights that can be seen over 9 miles away. The brightness of each light corresponds to the volume of the speaker. His vision for this memorial is a stirring tribute to the voices that were silenced in 1968 and visual marker of the power of speaking up. 

Whether revisiting political unrest or encouraging exploration, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's light and sound installations are fully immersive environments that inspire viewers to delve deeper. 

Ibiayi Briggs