Solar Equation by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer


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Born in Mexico, but resident in Québec, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is an Electronic Artist who develops interactive installations that are at the intersection of architecture and performance art. His main interest is in creating platforms for public participation, by perverting technologies such as robotics, computerized surveillance or telematic networks.

Solar Equation is a spectacular flying landmark commissioned by Federation Square for Light in Winter, in Melbourne, Australia and features the world’s largest spherical helium balloon custom-made for the project.

The solar animation on the balloon is generated by live mathematical equations that simulate the turbulence, flares and sunspots that can be seen on the surface of the sun. This produces a constantly changing display that never repeats itself, giving viewers a glimpse of the majestic phenomena that are observable on the solar surface, and that only relatively recent advances in astronomy have discovered. The project uses the latest SOHO and SDO solar observatory imaging available from NASA, overlaid with live animations derived from NavierStokes, reaction diffusion, perlin and fractal flame equations.

An onboard camera allows the piece to react to the people in public space: the more people detected, the more turbulence is created.

Lozana-Hemmer says: “While pertinent environmental questions of global warming, drought, or UV radiation arise from the contemplation of Solar Equation, the piece also evokes romantic environments of ephemerality, mystery and paradox, such as those from Blake or Goethe. Every culture has a unique set of solar mythologies and this project seeks to be a platform for both the expression of traditional symbolism and the emergence of new stories. 

Some people may experience the work as a traditional son-et-lumière spectacle, others as a visualisation of natural forces, while others as a call to action to harness the sustainability of solar power. Coincidentally, the sun generates its own energy by nuclear fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium, the inert gas that is used to fly the maquette.”

Solar Equation will be one of many light shows on display at the bilateral Durham Lumiere light festival, England running Thursday 14 – Sunday 17 November, 4.30pm – 11pm.


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