Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is known for subverting high-end technologies of tracking and surveillance to create interactive public installations that mirror the rhizomic networks of information and surveillance which characterise today’s world.
Pan-anthem (2014) is an interactive sound graph based on one of the vital statistics of world nations– their military spending. The installation is composed of moveable speakers, each playing the national anthem of a country it represents, that are arranged on a wall according to military spending. On the far left of this graph stand speakers playing the national anthems of nations with the lowest defence spending–starting with countries with no military forces such as Costa Rica, Iceland and Andorra. The figures increase as we progress to the right, where stand the speakers that play the anthems of nations with the highest allocations, such as the United States of America.
The speakers are activated by motion sensors that detect the presence of viewers in front of them. When a speaker is triggered, the labels on it light up, revealing the name of the country and the title of its anthem. As a viewer inspects a large cluster of speakers, a panoramic playback of the anthems of all the countries inhabiting that point in the graph can be heard. The patriotic idealism and heraldry that universally characterise national anthems form a chilling sound narrative in Lozano-Hemmer’s installation to the underlying statistic of military aggression and violence.