Speaking Willow: Language, Art, and Technology
Monday, August 16, 2021 | 12:00 p.m.
Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s work truly engages the viewer as it explores the possibilities of human connection. His pieces have established lines of visual and audio communication across national borders and transformed voices into pulses of light. In his reflection on language for Planet Word, Lozano-Hemmer designed a “tree” whose branches, made from hollow aluminum, house ethernet cables that end in visually stunning speakers which detect movement under their swaying boughs. As visitors walk beneath the 20-foot interactive sculpture’s willow-like canopy, these speakers light up and play sayings, poems, and songs from nearly 400 languages. The effect is transformative and personal, as if each language is being spoken confidentially into the ear of the listener.
Lozano-Hemmer’s Speaking Willow stands outside Planet Word as an open invitation to all who pass by its historic grounds to consider what words mean to them — encouraging passersby to enter the museum’s doors and participate in multimedia installations on the power of words. The artwork was commissioned by Planet Word founder Ann Friedman in partnership with the Public Art Fund, and the language samples were originally recorded and published by Wikitongues and the Endangered Language Alliance.
The Language Preservation Initiative (LPI) is honored to welcome Rafael Lozano-Hemmer to discuss his inspiration for the Speaking Willow, and how he uses technology to connect viewers by bringing language to life.
We would like to thank Planet Word and Wikitongues for partnering with LPI to co-sponsor this event.