Project Atrium: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Spectral Subjects

September 5, 2024 - February 16, 2025

mockup of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's Project Atrium installation

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Spectral Subjects (rendering for MOCA Jacksonville), 2024.


Spectral Subjects is a new exciting immersive art installation designed to transform the Atrium Gallery of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, Florida. World-renowned artist, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, has proposed an installation that, using state-of-the-art thermal imaging software, detects heat and cold in the environment. The changes in temperature, caused by the visitor’s body heat, as well as the building’s air circulation and ventilation, will manifest as colossal wall projections in the atrium.

As with previous biometric art projects by Lozano-Hemmer, the piece is a call to think of the human body as a continuum with the environment around us. The skin is not the limit of our body but rather its visible limit: sound, smell, heat, air/breath, and even chemical signals, are constantly being interchanged across what is incorrectly described as the boundary between the public and the private. Written and oral language, actions, movement, and exteroception are examples of other manifestations of our extension into our surroundings, as are the resulting buildings, songs, and artworks, but also the environmental degradation and the Anthropocene in general.


SAVE THE DATE Opening Celebration: Fall Exhibitions 

September 5 | 6-9 p.m. 

Patrons 6 p.m. | Members 7 p.m. | Public 8 p.m. We celebrate our newest exhibitions, including the opening of Spectral Subjects, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s upcoming Project Atrium installation that features colossal wall projections controlled by a thermal-imaging computer analysis system. This event is free for all. MOCA Members will receive an exclusive early access invite. Not a Member? Join today!



Project Atrium: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer Spectral Subjects is made possible through the generous support of Project Atrium season sponsors Joan and Preston Haskell, along with the support of Centennial sponsors for MOCA Jacksonville's 100th Anniversary year from Lauren and Ted Baker, the City of Jacksonville, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, Inaugural Director's Circle, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Florida Blue, the Florida Division of Arts & Culture, Joan and Preston Haskell, the MOCA Board of Trustees, the University of North Florida, and Visit Jacksonville.

Headshot of artist 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.

Hemmer is a media artist working at the intersection of architecture and performance art. He creates platforms for public participation using technologies such as robotic lights, digital fountains, computerized surveillance, media walls, and telematic networks. Inspired by phantasmagoria, carnival, and animatronics, his light and shadow works are "antimonuments for alien agency."

Hemmer has exhibited his work around the globe, and he was the first artist to represent Mexico at the Venice Biennale with an exhibition at Palazzo Van Axel in 2007. 


Previous Work

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer installation Pulse Topology

Pulse Topology (2021)

Pulse Topology is composed of thousands of light bulbs suspended at different heights that create a series of crests and valleys—an intimate landscape that visitors are invited to traverse. Each light bulb glimmers to the pulse of a different participant, which contributes to a connective arrangement. Custom-made pulse sensors record visitor heartbeats; when a new participant interacts with the installation, their pulse is added to the canopy of recordings above them, with the newest recording replacing the oldest.

Forming a platform for self-representation, in Pulse Topology individual heartbeats come together to form an immersive chorus of light and sound. Translating an interior force to an exterior form, the piece makes tangible the otherwise invisible register of the heartbeat, which glows and then fades in the spirit of a memento mori.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer installation Speaking Willow

Speaking Willow (2020)

A metal tree sculpture, covered in living vine and ivy, features hundreds of hanging loudspeakers, which detect the presence of a visitor underneath and, in response, play quiet voice recordings in one of 400 different languages. Each speaker contains recordings in a different language, obtained from the Wikitongues language preservation project. The speakers also light up on playback to create a glimmering effect similar to fireflies. If no visitor is around, the tree quietly plays back bird songs from hundreds of species.

Curated by the Public Art Fund for the courtyard of the new Planet Word Museum of Language in Washington D.C., the piece was fabricated by UAP in New York.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer installation A Crack in the Hourglass

A Crack in the Hourglass (2020)

In this participatory artwork, a modified robotic plotter deposits grains of hourglass sand onto a black surface to recreate the images of those lost due to COVID-19. After each portrait is completed, the surface tilts and the same sand is recycled into the next portrait, echoing the collective and ongoing nature of the pandemic. Those seeking a way to mourn loved ones lost during the pandemic are invited to participate by submitting a photograph of the deceased at accompanied by a personalized dedication. The resulting memorials are available, via livestream and in archive form on the project’s website.

The project was originally commissioned by MUAC Museum in Mexico City and was shown at the Brooklyn Museum for six months.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer installation Volumetric Solar Equation

Volumetric Solar Equation (2019)

“Volumetric Solar Equation” is an iconic chandelier in the form of a constantly changing spherical volumetric display that simulates the turbulence, flares, and spots visible on the surface of the sun. The piece is animated by fluid dynamic equations such as reaction-diffusion, Navier-Stokes, Perlin noise, and fractal flames, combined with the latest imagery from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). “Volumetric Solar Equation” is inspired by geometric abstraction artworks by artists such as François Morellet, Jesús Rafael Soto, Carlos Cruz Diez, and Julio Le Parc. The content consists of an emergent live simulation that never repeats itself, rather than a video loop. Three metres in diameter, the sphere is made of 25,580 LED lights on 342 battens, which are arranged according to equations developed by Pierre de Fermat, which references a spiraling pattern used to describe plant phyllotaxis. The sphere, therefore, has no vanishing points. Co-commissioned by the Musée National des Beaux Arts in Québec City and AmorePacific Museum in Seoul.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer installation Border Tuner

Border Tuner (2019)

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. 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, 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, creating a glimmer similar to a Morse code scintillation. Every interactive station can tune into any other, so for example, a participant in Mexico can connect to the three US-based stations or to the other two in Mexico.

The project brought together tens of thousands of people, reuniting families on both sides of the border, creating new connections, performing poetry recitals and serenades, observing mournful vigils, and staging the vibrancy of the diverse culture and activism in the region.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer installation Vicious Circular Breathing

Vicious Circular Breathing (2015)

Vicious Circular Breathing is a hermetically-sealed apparatus that invites the public to breathe the air that was previously breathed by participants before them. It consists of a glass room with double sliding doors, two emergency exits, carbon dioxide and oxygen sensors, a set of motorized bellows, an electromagnetic valve system, and 61 brown paper bags hanging from respiration tubes.

In the piece, visitors’ breath is kept circulating and made tangible by automatically inflating and deflating the brown paper bags around 10,000 times a day, the normal respiratory frequency for an adult at rest. There are 61 bags because that constitutes 5 octaves which is a typical range of musical organs, which inspire the design.

The piece includes warnings for asphyxiation, contagion and panic, and produces a faint mechanical sound, a quiet whir from the air flow and a louder crackle from the crumpling bags.

To participate, an audience member presses a button on the outside of the glass prism. They can then enter a vestibule and wait for it to be decompressed. Once they enter the main chamber, they sit down and breathe the recycled air.


MOCA Jacksonville celebrates its centennial in 2024, as the oldest art museum in the region and the second contemporary art museum to be established in the United States. This celebration year is an opportunity for MOCA to give back to the community that has been its home for a century by presenting groundbreaking exhibitions and programs that will engage the community and elevate Jacksonville as a regional destination for arts and culture. Your support is vital to making these plans a reality. We hope that you will join us in celebrating this momentous occasion for MOCA and for Jacksonville. Learn More >> 
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