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Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is one of the most acclaimed artists working today, but his pieces wouldn’t exist without public participation. MEGALODEMOCRAT explores Rafael’s quest to stage a democratic takeover of urban space. Shot over 10 years in 30 cities around the world, the film provides intimate access to his large-scale interactive creations in locations such as Trafalgar Square in London, the Vancouver Olympics and New York’s Park Avenue Tunnel, culminating in a piece that crosses the US-Mexico border. In our increasingly isolated lives, MEGALODEMOCRAT serves as an antidote to alienation: Rafael’s work is a rallying point for a screened-in urban population, longing to connect. His art doesn’t discriminate, and all who participate are given a voice. With that voice comes a sense of hope.

A film by Benjamin Duffield
Documentary feature – 91:35

AWARDS: "Best Canadian Film" at FIFA Montreal,
“Festival Category Winner: Art Attack” at DocEdge New Zealand

Fierce Bad Rabbit Pictures
4006 rue Drolet, Montréal, Québec, H2W 2L2 Canada
514.889.8949 • •

MUSIC BY: Steve Reich, Michael Nyman, Sonido Gallo Negro, Scanner, Batallones Femeninos, Delezeta, Luar, Pérez Prado, Chucho Monge, James Gelfand and Louise Tremblay.

FILMED ON LOCATION: Abu Dhabi, Basel, Berlin, Ciudad Juárez, Dublin, Duisburg, El Paso, Graz, Hong Kong, Linz, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Lyon, Melbourne, Mexico City, Montréal, Moscow, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Québec City, Rotterdam, Salamanca, Sydney, Toulouse, Vancouver, Venice, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Wellington.

SYNOPSIS: Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer started making public art in 1992, using high-power audiovisual media to help him transform cities around the world. Having studied science in university and, as he freely admits, having no ability to paint, write or play an instrument, he resorted to technology as a medium to express himself. He has since created interactive art installations on 5 continents, won two BAFTAs, a Bauhaus and a Governor General’s Award among other accolades. Obsessed with participation, Rafael works with a team of innovative programmers to design ephemeral interventions —projections, light shows, sound environments— which are platforms to foster public connection. By drawing participants into the work both physically and imaginatively, Rafael tries to give people the experience of effecting change on their environment and by extension, their society. But does the art succeed, or is it simply a diversion from our daily lives? Even with all his success, Rafael struggles with this question.

The son of Mexico City nightclub owners, Rafael has translated the family business of bringing people together into an artistic practice. The film captures his contagious enthusiasm for transforming urban spaces that are usually reserved for shopping: huge shadow plays are projected on high- rises in Rotterdam, casting images of the city’s own denizens; hundreds of lights pulse to the heartbeat of passers-by in a New York City park; a fountain of searchlights coalesces into a series of arrays in Vancouver, designed by participants around the world.

Every piece finds a poetic new way to turn the audience into an active component of the art. As he cheerfully states, “Without the direct input of the spectator, the work does not exist. In our increasingly isolated lives, Megalodemocrat explores Rafael’s quest to stage a democratic takeover of public space. Shot over a period of 10 years in 30 cities around the world, the film provides intimate access to the process of mounting his large-scale creations. In the highly competitive world of contemporary art, his imposing installations become lightning rods for hostility toward publicly funded art in the climate of austerity. But as Megalodemocrat shows, his work is more frequently a rallying point for an alienated urban population, longing to connect.

The scale of his ambition means that Rafael frequently faces disaster and chaos, yet he thrives on this energy. Months of R&D, logistical nightmares and volatile political negotiations go into the staging of every piece. Yet they are, by design, ephemeral; existing only for a few weeks. His work inspires controversy by being highly visible, critical and out of control. “No one tells the public what to do or not do in these projects,” he says. Art critics and audiences alike praise Rafael’s non-negotiable conditions: no censorship, no logos, and the content is entirely generated by participation. In a way, Rafael is a utopian. His projects are about disrupting our modern routines of work, surveillance and consumption, and he uses playful, thought-provoking technology to fan our fundamental desire to interact with our fellow human beings in real time and space.

— Benjamin Duffield (Producer, Director, Writer, Editor)

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