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Published on October 14, 2020

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer was born in Mexico City in 1967. In 1989 he received a B.Sc. in Physical Chemistry from Concordia University in Montréal, Canada.

He was the first artist to represent Mexico at the Venice Biennale with an exhibition at Palazzo Van Axel in 2007. His public art has been commissioned for the Millennium Celebrations in Mexico City (1999), the Expansion of the European Union in Dublin (2004), the Student Massacre Memorial in Tlatelolco (2008), the Vancouver Olympics (2010), the pre-opening exhibition of the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi (2015), and the activation of the Raurica Roman Theatre in Basel (2018).

“Border Tuner” is a large-scale, participatory art installation designed to interconnect the cities of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. Powerful searchlights make “bridges of light” that open live sound channels for communication across the US-Mexico border. The piece creates a fluid canopy of light that can be modified by visitors to six interactive stations, three placed in El Paso and three in Juárez.

Each of the interactive “Border Tuner” stations features a microphone, a speaker and a large wheel or dial. As a participant turns the dial, three nearby searchlights create an “arm” of light that follows the movement of the dial, automatically scanning the horizon. When two such “arms of light” meet in the sky and intersect, automatically a bidirectional channel of sound is opened between the people at the two remote stations. As they speak and hear each other, the brightness of the “light bridge” modulates in sync, —a glimmer similar to a Morse code scintillation. Every interactive station can tune any other, so for example a participant in Mexico can connect to the three US-based stations or to the other two in Mexico, as they wish.

“Border Tuner” is not only designed to create new connections between the communities on both sides of the border, but to make visible the relationships that are already in place: magnifying existing relationships, conversations and culture. The piece is intended as a visible “switchboard” of communication where people can self-represent. The project seeks to provide a platform for a wide-range of local voices and an opportunity to draw international attention to the co-existence and interdependence between the sister cities that create the largest bi-national metropolitan area in the western hemisphere.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Border Tuner / Sintonizador Fronterizo, Relational Architecture 23, 2019.