Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

Heart Lights

Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

Heart Lights

Article excerpt

Last November, on a very cold night, I walked over to Madison Square Park with a friend to see Rafael Lozano-Hammer's piece, "Pulse Park." After entering the park, I approached the piece, which was hundreds of theatrical spotlights placed at ground level, at the circumference of the lawn. Each spotlight shot a separate stream of light across the tips of the grass. At one end of the lawn was a set of handlebars with heart rate monitors, similar to the StairMaster type you hold on to in the gym. The idea was to hold the handlebars, and then watch the lights beat in time to your heartbeat. My friend had done this before. He loved doing it; he said, "When it's telegraphed, I feel its rhythm; I feel it because I see it." Four or five people are in line. My friend says, "It's short compared to last night." I say, "It was warmer last night."

As we waited, I watched everyone take their turn. The sensors clocked them for 15 seconds, then sent the pattern of their heart to the spotlights, and the spotlights flashed in time with each person's individual heartbeat. The sound of the generator also revved up and down in time with your heart. After each individual heart rate was projected, the lights went into chaos. The spotlights flashed in total disharmony. Each spotlight was synchronized in rhythm with one of the heart rates of the last 100 users of the piece. In between the introduction of each new user's heart rate was a fifteen second intermission or recap, in which you saw the combined rates of the previous 100 users of the piece. Then the next person stepped up to the handlebars, and the spotlights flashed in perfect, focused unity to the beat of this new person.

Regarding the inspiration of this piece, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer said, "When my wife was pregnant with twins and you listened to tneir heart beating, there was this beautiful syncopation like minimalist music. I wanted to expand that into something that could be appreciated visually."

First in line was a young man, alone, in his twenties. He put his hands on the bars, and we saw a fast, fluttery stream. He turned around to the rest of us standing in line, and said, "Sorry, I just smoked a cigarette." Next was a young couple on a date. He put his hands on the bars; it was a steady pulse - lots of space between the bright streams of light, clear differentiation between the two parts of the heartbeat. …

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