Until recently art that was substantively digital or technological seemed to jump one of either two way. It was technologically awkward, light years behind the actual advanced grace of contemporary technology, or it was unengagingly aloof, endeavouring to divorce technology from the throbbing warm of the human experience.
Thankfully this dichotomy is now over, art has finally caught up with technology, and we have artist who are brilliant technologists... or perhaps the other way round?
Recorders, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's solo exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery (18 September to 30 January), brilliants elucidates the uneasy, but delicious, relationship between the body- and life-human and technology.
You are greeting by Pulse Index (2010), a work that perfectly embodies the playful, ominous, interactive ethos of the exhibition. The sight of your finger print, so ubiquitously human and essentially individual, enlarged in perfect definition, complete with tiny beads of sweat and grime magnified and glittering like pearls, is both delightful and viscerally shocking. It then flutters off to join the teeming, digitalised hoards of finger prints stored in the work.
As fascinating as all the installations are in this exhibition, none of the joyful wizardry evokes the sheer wonder and consternation of Pulse Room (2006). The tension that runs through many of the works, that we are all uniquely identifiable humans and yet share essential innately-human functions, is illustrated by a constellation of heart-beat-flickering light bulbs. Standing in the darkened room, as a light bulb pulses in front of you with your own heart beat, followed by watching your rhythm flow and dissipate across the room, is just thrilling.
Recorders reminds you of your humanity, simultaneously evoking your biological uniqueness and your puny organic commonness, like a kindly robotic overlord. This exhibition is delightful, if you are not too serious about art or technology. Ominous and playful, I feel as though Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's work is the first that I've experienced that accurately and beautifully portrays the mood, issues and joys of life in our ubiquitously- digitalised present and near future.
Recorders: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer from Manchester Art Gallery on Vimeo.