Rafael Lozano-Hemmer Augments An Inquisition Era Church With A Mock Sun And Witchy Shadows

<p><i>Nave Solar</i> creates an eerie presence in a church, reminiscent of the former heretic inquisitions that once took place there.</p>

"Nave Solar" at Laboratorio Arte Alameda (2011) by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer from bitforms gallery on Vimeo.

Churches and religion have a long history of persecution (for something that claims to be enlightened, they sure do a lot of hating). Take for instance the Spanish Inquisition, they went around repressing people and denouncing them as witches and torturing them just because they could. One of their favored methods of torture was the pendulum, which saw the victim tied to a wooden bench while a razor sharp blade swung lower and lower towards their stomach until they either confessed to being a witch—even if they never owned a broomstick—or were sliced up like salami.

So far, so grim. But one man’s horrendous tool of torture is another’s inspiration for art. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s piece Nave Solar is an interactive installation exhibited in a 16th century Inquisition church in Mexico City, the Laboratorio Arte Alameda. The piece features a 6 meter in diameter sphere suspended from the interior dome of the church, with animations projected onto it so as to resemble the surface of the sun.

The animations are activated by a pendulum hanging from the sphere, which generates smoke and changes the patterns of the animations as visitors swing on it. The smoke is then projected onto the back of the church, along with the visitors’ shadows, to create an eerie, foreboding scene that evokes the alleged witchcraft the church once fought, as well as the repressive horrors committed in its name. On the brighter side, it also looks like a whole bunch of fun—kind of like a rope swing over a lake. Leave it to art to turn something that was once an instrument of torture into fun for the whole family.

Lozano-Hemmer explains his inspiration:

The installation is inspired by the Christian Botafumeiro, the Foucault pendulum demonstrating the rotation of the earth, or the form of torture and execution of the Inquisition that Edgar Allan Poe described in his 1842 story “The Pit and the Pendulum”. Nave Solar is designed to evoke the myth of Icarus, the TV games of Luis Manuel Pelayo, and the synchronization of pendulum clocks that Huygens discovered in 1665.