2018 Armory Show

Vapor Wave: A Work by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer Makes Faces at the Armory Show

Installation view of a work by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, in the booth of Madrid’s Max Estrella.


As the ancient proverb goes: more moving than a selfie is the sight of one’s own visage rendered in vapor and then vanished, with just a memory fleeting in the ether. Anyone uncertain about the truth of such wisdom can put it to the test at the Armory Show by way of an artwork by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

Filling the Focus section booth for the Max Estrella gallery, which is based in Madrid, the work engages the phenomenon of pareidolia, which accounts for the mind’s habit of seeing things or finding patterns where none exist—“like if we look at a cloud and see a face or an animal,” Estrella, the gallery director, said.

When a viewer stands in position atop two footprints on the floor, a camera snaps an image and then—by means too beautiful and perplexing to beg for questions that might demystify—an image of the viewer’s face takes shape by way of jets shooting tiny streams of vapor. Shortly after that, a series of screens on a wall nearby projects the face for just a moment, before all reverts back to nothingness again.

About Lozano-Hemmer’s work, a hit with passersby, Estrella said, “He talks about it as a presence but also pre-science—when you are working with intuition toward understanding something that you cannot talk about exactly.”

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