When your child is conceived, is there a pulse? When does the fetus take on your heartbeat as it’s pulse? How long do your two bodies share this rhythm as one? When do your heartbeats divide into individual pulses?
For my birthday, my adult son promised me a date- just the two of us. And today I collected.
We walked, took the subway, then streetcar (first time for me!) to a fun bar for lunch. Bare bulbs attached to a metal box spring hung above our heads for light. Huevos divorciados for me with red sauce on one egg, green sauce on the other, fried oyster Po-boy for him.
Then we Uber’d to the Hirshorn Gallery of Modern Art to see an exhibit he’d heard of and thought I would like.
We took the escalator up, to where Rafael Lozano Hemmer has multiple installations lining the curved hallway galleries. This artist uses visitors’ fingerprints and heartbeats to activate his art. The first passage had panels of fingerprints, constantly changing as guests placed their fingertips on the sensor supervised by a gallery guard. As you walked through, the hallway darkened to the next section with three pools of shallow water. Here you place your hands on flat plates, and your pulse transfers to create ripples, small waves in the dark water, which transfer electronically to become visual images filling the walls. They settle, rise, overlap, crescendo, create patterns, all as we- the community of visitors passing through- give our data, our rhythm, our pulse.
Continuing you encounter total darkness, then a wave of light along multiple orange-filament bulbs hanging from the ceiling washes toward you. These dark stillnesses, then waves of light are the heartbeats of guests at the other end grasping sensors.
We were a strange community of living, pulsing beings creating lit images. But what I loved the most was creating pulsing waves in the water- me on one side of the pool placing my two hands on the sensors, my son on the other end doing the same. We watched our watery waves as gray and white images on the wall, ripple out and overlap, interlace and divide. Rhythmic patterns ebbed and flowed.
I almost never do this, but I had to- I asked a young woman to take a photo of the wall, as my son and I held our hands to the sensors, creating the image. With our pulses.
It was a lovely gift. We are separate, but for a moment our pulses reunited.