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Art from Radio Waves and Shadows

Lozano-Hemmer radio installation staged at Singapore Bienniale

Visitors to the 2011 Singapore Bienniale of Contemporary Art will be able to use their shadows to tune that airwaves of the island city-state.

Mexian-Canadian electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is restaging his piece “Frequency and Volume: Relational Architecture 9” at the Old Kallang Airport as part of the festival, Mar. 13–May 15.

In the installation, shadows of visitors are projected on a long wall. A computerized tracking system uses the shadows’ positions and size to control radio frequencies and volumes, effectively turning the human body into an antenna.

Listeners can hear over-the-air broadcasts from 150 kHz to 1.5 GHz, including AM, FM, shortwave, CB, radio navigation and other transmissions. Up to 16 frequencies can be tuned simultaneously.

Lozano-Hemmer was born in Mexico, but is now based in Montréal. The installation includes projects, cameras, computers, radioelectric scanners, antennas, radios and a 48-channel sound system. The receivers and antennas are exhibited in a room adjacent to the installation.

“Frequency and Volume” was originally devised in 2003 and staged at the Laboratorio Arte Alameda in Mexico City. At that time, the Mexican government was working to shut down unlicensed stations in indigenous communities in Chiapas and Guerrero. Lozano-Hemmer said that the piece was inspired, in part, by radio poetry experiments of the Mexican Estridentista movement of the 1920s.

Video from a 2009 staging of “Frequency and Volume” at The Barbicon in London