Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Border Tuner


From Art21. Known for his large-scale, interactive installations, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer uses contemporary technologies like computerized surveillance, heart-rate sensors, and robotics to create participatory experiences and platforms for public participation and connection. The artist frequently works in and transforms public spaces, creating awe-inspiring, poetic, and critical installations, like “Voz Alta”: a massive megaphone system erected in a Mexico City plaza to commemorate the infamous Tlatelolco student massacre in 1968. Spurred by his Mexican heritage and the growing nationalism in the United States, Lozano-Hemmer embarks on his most ambitious project to date: “Border Tuner,” an enormous intercom system at the border between El Paso and Juárez that allows participants from both sides to speak and listen to each other via radio-enabled searchlights. At his studio in Montreal, the artist works with a team of scientists, engineers, programmers, architects, and designers to develop the project; at the El Paso–Juárez border, he invites local artists and performers and members of the public to use “Border Tuner” to listen to, share, and visualize their voices and stories. Highlighting the intimate, personal relations in a public space that is otherwise systematically dehumanizing, Lozano-Hemmer explains, “The most important role that art can play is that of making complexity visible. The usage of technology is inevitable; it’s up to the artist to use those technologies to create experiences that are intimate, connected, and critical.”

“Borderlands” premiered in October 2020 on PBS. Watch now on PBS and the PBS Video app: https://www.pbs.org/video/borderlands-4m0kef/

Learn more about the artist: https://art21.org/artist/rafael-lozano-hemmer/

Cite this page as: Art21, "Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Border Tuner," in Smarthistory, January 6, 2021, accessed April 14, 2021, https://smarthistory.org/rafael-lozano-hemmer-border-tuner/.