The world’s largest interactive video installation will fill the Northern Terrace of Trafalgar Square for 10 days this November, from dusk till late. Two large-scale projectors will flood an area over 2,000m2 with 110,000 lumens of light, casting long shadows of anyone walking into or passing through the space. As visitors enter Under Scan they are detected by a sophisticated camera and sensor tracking-system, and animated video portraits suddenly appear, projected into the viewers’ shadows. Under Scan contains over 1,000 moving video portraits of people from Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, Northampton and Nottingham, each of whom was given three minutes to film a portrait of themselves doing whatever they felt best represented them. A further selection of 300 portraits will be shot this September at Tate Modern, involving museum visitors and invited local participants. Under Scan is by leading electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.
Originally commissioned by East Midlands Development Agency (emda), Under Scan is being produced in London by ArtReach, with partnership support from Arts Council England, Art Lights London, the Canadian High Commission, Haunch of Venison, Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Jumex Foundation, the Mexican Embassy to the UK, the National Gallery, Québec Government Office the Science Museum and Tate Media and Tate Modern.
Under Scan is a large interactive art installation featuring over a thousand moving video portraits of individuals from London and the east Midlands. In November 2008 it was projected onto the north terrace of Trafalgar Square. To explore themes of self-representation, participants were filmed for up to three minutes, freely portraying themselves doing whatever they felt best represented them. Passers-by were detected by a computerised tracking system, which activated the video portraits and projected them within their shadow. The portraits ‘woke up’ and established eye contact with the viewer as soon as his or her shadow ‘revealed’ them. As the viewer walked away, the portraits reacted by looking away, and eventually disappeared if no-one activated them. Every seven minutes the entire installation stopped and reset itself, revealing the tracking system in a brief sequence which projected all of the calibration grids used by the computerised surveillance system.
‘In our age of surveillance, globalization, and urban homogenization, I believe there is the need to re-link people to their surroundings. The work[s] of painters such as Parmigianino, Velázquez and, more recently, Leon Golub and Attila Luckacs show scenes where vectors of glances precisely pin the viewer in complicity with what is being seen; who is the viewer? Who is the subject in these works? These are pertinent questions as we deal with the disappearance of public space. Video-portraits as seen in Gary Hill’s installation Tall Ships or in the work of pioneering media artists such as Luc Courchesne, Lynn Hershmann and Paul Sermon take these questions to the next level of intimacy.’
Under Scan was originally commissioned by the East Midlands Development Agency and was produced in London by ArtReach, with partnership support from the Science Museum, Arts Council England, Art Lights London, the Canadian High Commission, Design for London, Haunch of Venison, ICA, the Mexican Embassy, the National Gallery, Tate Media and Tate Modern and the Quebec Government Office.
About the artist
Mexican-Canadian Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (born 1967) is an electronic artist developing large-scale interactive installations in public space, usually deploying new technologies and custom-made physical interfaces. Using robotics, projections, sound, internet and cell-phone links, sensors and other devices, his installations aim to provide ‘temporary antimonuments for alien agency’.