I don’t know what it is about the phrase “art installation” that immediately makes my upper lip curl, and my brain adds the word “pretentious” before my every thought. Which is ridiculous, as most large-scale art projects are admirably amazing, but it’s the ones that don’t sway me that somehow influence my opinions of the rest. But I’m nothing if not awestruck by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s latest piece.
Lozano-Hemmer, who hails from Mexico City, is a decorated artist with many years of wonderful exhibits behind him, frequently involving light in some capacity. His “Flatsun” project has over 60,000 LED lights set on a large disc a little over 4 1/2 feet in diameter. It simulates the surface of the sun, with all of its fiery, turbulent beauty. Like a hyper-evolved lava lamp, it seems like this particular brand of light show would go well with hallucinogens and late ’60s rock.
Flatsun is one billion times smaller than our actual sun, and doesn’t turn you into charred bone if you stand nearby. But thanks to a pinhole camera and onboard computer, your nearby presence actually affects the animations. The more people that are around and waving their arms in front of the disc, the more active the lights, mimicking solar flares. When no one’s around, the activity slows until the entire display shuts off. As if watching a simulated surface of the sun wasn’t impressive enough, now there exists the mentally jarring opportunity to watch it blink out of existence.
For those who don’t know or didn’t remember, Lozano-Hemmer was also responsible for the gigantic sun simulation a few years ago.