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“Pulse Room” by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

"Pulse Room" at Artefact Festival, Leuven BE

Pulse Room is an interactive installation featuring one to three hundred clear incandescent light bulbs, 300 W each and hung from a cable at a height of three metres. The bulbs are uniformly distributed over the exhibition room, filling it completely. An interface placed on a side of the room has a sensor that detects the heart rate of participants. When someone holds the interface, a computer detects his or her pulse and immediately sets off the closest bulb to flash at the exact rhythm of his or her heart. The moment the interface is released all the lights turn off briefly and the flashing sequence advances by one position down the queue, to the next bulb in the grid. Each time someone touches the interface a heart pattern is recorded and this is sent to the first bulb in the grid, pushing ahead all the existing recordings. At any given time the installation shows the recordings from the most recent participants.

This work was inspired by Macario, directed by Roberto Gavaldón in 1960, a film where the protagonist suffers a hunger-induced hallucination in which every person is represented by a lit candle in a cave. Other references for this work include minimalist, machinic and serialist patterns in music (for example in scores by composers Conlon Nancarrow, Steve Reich and Glenn Branca) and the postulation of the theory of Cybernetics at the National Institute of Cardiology in Mexico City to explain the process of self-regulation of the heart.” 1.

"Pulse Room" lightbulb close-upRafael Lozano-Hemmer creates an awareness of the audience that participated in the piece by showing their former presence in a visualy impressive environment. Witness by Susan Hiller more or less does the same thing, supported by sound. Mikami’s World, Membrane and the Dismembered Body also uses sound, supported by visualisations, to create awareness of the bodily functions, instead of using only illumination. As Pulse Room functions through simulation of the heartbeat, Bodies© INCorporated by Vesna, Nideffer and Freitas is based visitors making their own simulations. The visitors of both works are incorporated in the pieces, each participant retaining their own identity in the ‘public’ flux. Bodies© INCorporated though, wages critique on contemporary capitalism, a critique that is nowhere to be found in Pulse Room.

Pulse Room is a fairly accessible piece of art, enjoyed by artlovers and non-artlovers alike as a special experience. This corresponds with Lozano-Hemmer’s own plea against the views on ‘Technologically Correctness’ in art and how art should be ‘Technologically Correct’. In Perverting Technological Correctness (AEM 240) Lozano-Hemmer claims that in judging if a contemporary media artwork is ‘Technologically Correct’ one should observe the level of ‘specialness’ and that these artworks do not have to meet certain arbitrairy rules, like providing global culture and introducing infinite creative possibilities. Pulse Room has this certain specialness, ignores all the established rules on ‘Technical Correctness’.

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