Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- As the viewer approaches a large vertical TV, their image is reflected back to them. White smoke begins to flow from the viewer’s eyes, eventually filling the whole screen. Once the viewer leaves, the image of their eyes remains at the bottom of the screen, along with those of every other recent viewer.
- This interactive video and its title are a tribute to St. Lucy, the Patron Saint of the Blind, and John Donne’s poem, “A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day, Being the Shortest Day.”
- A tracking system and facial recognition software are used to capture the viewer’s image and then distort their appearance.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is a Mexican-Canadian artist who explores the intersection of art and technology, often incorporating computers, cameras, sensors, and various robotics to create dynamic and interactive art experiences. For The Year’s Midnight (Shadow Box 5), he uses viewer interaction to create a dynamic work of art that is both disturbing and humorous. A built-in, computerized tracking system and facial recognition software show the viewer’s image on the screen as they approach the work. Plumes of white smoke start to flow from the viewer’s eyes until the entire screen is filled. As the viewer leaves the video installation, their eyes appear along the bottom of the screen, beside those of every other viewer. The viewer then becomes the viewed.
The title of this work of art is from the first line of the poem, “A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day, Being the Shortest Day,” by 17th-century English poet John Donne. The poem references St. Lucy’s Day (December 13), which was once thought to be the shortest day of the year and the winter solstice. Saint Lucy was a martyr for her Christian faith, first having her eyes removed by the Roman Emperor Diocletian and then killed by a sword to the throat. Saint Lucy is often depicted holding her eyes on a golden plate or tray.
Tags: electronic, contemporary, smoke, experiential, movement
Resources for Teachers:
- Read an article about Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.
- Read the John Donne poem that inspired The Year’s Midnight (Shadow Box 5).
Resources for Students: