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‘Wavefunction, Subsculpture 9’ Puts Eames Designs In Motion

UMMA presents Wavefunction, Subsculpture 9, a kinetic sculpture and interactive installation by Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer that plays on the work of mid-century American designers Charles and Ray Eames.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Wavefunction, Subsculpture 9, 2007, 50 Eames chairs, motors, computerized surveillance tracking system, edition 3/3 + 1 AP. Courtesy of Antimodular ResearchThe installation consists of 42 molded plastic chairs (designed by the Eameses in 1948) arranged in a grid and attached to electromechanical pistons. When visitors approach the chairs, a surveillance system detects their presence and the closest chairs lift gently off the ground. The adjacent chairs follow, and a wave movement spreads across the array.

The software controlling the pistons is based on fluid dynamics, so as more visitors approach the grid, the chairs—whose iconic curving contours were also generated mathematically—mimic the complex interaction of multiple waves in water.

This installation complements the exhibition Moving Image: Performance on view in the Media Gallery now through July 23, 2017, and together they constitute the second of three presentations at UMMA drawn from the collection of Borusan Contemporary in Istanbul, Turkey.

“The exhibitions from the Borusan collection looks at works, rooted in technology, that are performative in nature,” says Kathleen Forde, UMMA’s Adjunct Curator of Media Arts and Borusan Contemporary’s Artistic Director at Large. “They speak to the relationship of participatory art and action-based work with technology.”

Moving Image: Portraiture, on view July 29 through November 26, presents a contemporary innovative spin on traditional notions of portraiture by way of artworks created with software and video by artists Hannu Karjalainen, Daniel Rozin, and Marina Zurkow.

Lozano-Hemmer was born in Mexico City in 1967 and earned a BS in physical chemistry from Concordia University in Montreal in 1989. His large-scale interactive installations have been commissioned for such events as the pre-opening exhibition of the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi in 2015, the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, the 2008 memorial for the Tlatelolco Student Massacre in Mexico City, and the UN World Summit of Cities in Lyon, France, in 2003. Recently the subject of solo exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the MUAC Museum in Mexico City, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, he was the first artist to officially represent Mexico at the Venice Biennale with a solo exhibition in 2007.

Wavefunction, Subsculpture 9 is one of numerous large- and small-scale installations that allow the artist to investigate his interest in performance within architectural space.

“There is a thread of Rafael Lozano Hemmer’s work which is very performative in nature, and reactive to the viewer,” says Forde. “In essence, the presence of the viewer provokes the work to perform in different ways in response to the individual. In some cases, the artwork increases in intensity of sound or light depending on the actions of the viewers. In others, as in the work on view at UMMA, the presence of the viewer creates movement.”

Wavefunction, Subsculpture 9 is on display in UMMA’s Irving Stenn, Jr. Family Gallery from April 22 to July 30.