Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, ‘Body Movies’, 2001, bitforms gallery

Thousands of portraits, taken on the streets of the cities where the project is shown, are projected on a giant screen or façade using elevated robotically-controlled projectors. However, the portraits are completely washed out by powerful xenon light sources placed at ground level. When people cross the square their shadows appear on the screen and the portraits are revealed within them. The shadows and portraits generate a play of reverse puppetry and embodied representation. Silhouettes measure between 2 and 30 metres high, depending on how far participants are from the screen.

A camera-based tracking system monitors the location of the shadows in real time. The computer vision interface, which is shown and explained on the site, triggers quiet feedback sounds when a shadow and a portrait match in scale. When the shadows have revealed all the portraits in a given scene, an automatic command is issued to change the scene to the next set of portraits. This way the people on the square are invited to match different representational narratives. Over 60 people may take part at any given time, creating a collective experience that nonetheless allows discrete individual participation.

"Body Movies" is the sixth in the series of “relational architecture” installations that Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has designed for cities in Europe and America for the past ten years. These interactive interventions have been exploring the intersection between new technologies, public space and performance art. The piece attempts to create an anti-monument of alien presence and embodied relationships.

Samuel van Hoogstraten's engraving "The Shadow Dance" (Rotterdam, 1675) is the main source of inspiration for this work. Body Movies attempts to misuse technologies of the spectacular so they can evoke a sense of intimacy and complicity instead of provoking distance, euphoria, catharsis, obedience or awe.

Series: Relational Architecture 6

"Non-site", Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland, 2011 (video).

"Body Movies", Quebec City 400th anniversary, Parc de la Cétière, Québec City, Québec, Canada, 2008.

"Body Movies", Te Papa Museum, Wellington, New Zealand, 2008.

"Body Movies", Museum of Art, HK Arts Development Council, Hong Kong, China, 2006.

"Body Movies", Duisburg Akzente, Duisburg, Germany, 2003.

"Body Movies", Liverpool Biennial, Williamson Square, Liverpool, United Kingdom, 2002.

Sapphire '02, Atlantico Pavillion, Lisbon, Portugal, 2002.

Ars Electronica Festival, OK Centrum, Linz, Austria, 2002.

"Body Movies", Cultural Capital of Europe Festival, V2 Grounding, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 2001.

About Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's public art installations combine technology, architecture, and performance using devices like robotics, projections, and cell phones. He constructs "temporary anti-monuments for alien agency," as in Pulse Tank (2008), in which heart rate sensors send ripples across the surface of water, or the Guggenheim's 2009 installation Levels of Nothingness, which allowed people to speak into a computer that linked voice traits to colors that were projected across the room. His Vectorial Elevation (1999), in which 800,000 participants created searchlight sculptures above Mexico City, may well be the world's largest interactive artwork ever.

Mexican, b. 1967, Mexico City, Mexico, based in Mexico City, Mexico

Solo Shows

Carroll / Fletcher, 
London ,
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Obra Sonora

Group Shows

Carroll / Fletcher, 
London ,
Carroll / Fletcher, 
London ,
Pencil / Line / Eraser
View Artist's CV