Listening to Art

09.11: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Pulse Topology

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Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume nine, number eleven: Pulse Topology by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is a Mexican-Canadian artist born in 1967. He has exhibited around the world and won many awards, including the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2015. In a video made for the occasion, he said:

Montaigne once said that “To philosophize is to learn how to die.” Art making is really about understanding the fact that our life is finite. We have this romantic attempt to understand, to capture, to classify and to control, but, in the end, this is just a very temporary performance.

This installation is in a space called the Bentway, which is under the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto. Shawn Micallef described it in “Installation under Gardiner lights up the pulse of the city” in the Toronto Star on 27 September 2021:

A near-ancient Toronto right of way is about to be re-opened for a massive interactive art project involving 3,000 light bulbs underneath the Gardiner Expressway.

As colonial Toronto goes, railways count as ancient. The Grand Trunk Railway fed the city’s growth beginning in the mid-1800s, and its main corridors are still used by GO, UP Express and Via Rail trains today.

Yet down along the south side of Fort York, a now-abandoned spur line led to the Queen’s Wharf at the foot of Bathurst, once located around where Lake Shore Boulevard is now, before landfill extended the shoreline south.

Though the rails were ripped out, the ghost path of that spur can still be seen under Strachan Avenue and through the “bents” holding up the Gardiner Expressway.

The Bentway, the public space project named after those bents, is mounting an exhibition in a series of “secret rooms” under the Gardiner on the western, Exhibition Place, side of Strachan. They will be using the old rail corridor to bring people from the eastern, fort side, to see it.

This is an installation, with 3,000 LED filament light bulbs and touchless photoplethysmography sensors, in a large space of unknown dimensions.

Now let’s listen to Pulse Topology by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, recorded at the Bentway, in Toronto, on 13 October 2021.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was Pulse Topology by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit

Listening to Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Canada Council. “Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, media artist and 2015 Canada Council laureate – a film by by Alliah Fifin.” YouTube video, 03:55.

Lozano-Hemmer, Rafael. “Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.” Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

Micallef, Shawn. “Installation Under Gardiner Lights up the Pulse of the City.” Toronto Star, 27 September 2021. ProQuest.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Rafael Lozano-Hemmer,”