Artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's Work Make Your Eyeballs Smoke (VIDEO)

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5min/BBC
5min/BBC

An art exhibition in Sydney, Australia, is turning museum patrons into the artists themselves through the use of tape measures, seismophones and even "seeing machines."

The exhibit, which is called "Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Recorders," takes up an entire floor at the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art with weird gadgets designed to provide the most interactive experience possible.

One installation presents rows of motorized measuring tapes that record the amount of time that visitors stay in the installation.

Another exhibit is a "pulse room" where visitors hold an electronic sensor that controls a bunch of lightbulbs. The sensor then makes the bulbs blink at the same rate as the heart beat of the person holding the sensor.

Still another uses Face API technology to make the patrons' eyeballs look as if they are emanating billows of smoke.

The work is the brainchild of Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, who has made it his mission to break down the walls that keep museum patrons from being part of the art themselves.

"Often museums have a very condescending and paternalistic attitude towards the public," Lozano-Hemmer told the BBC. "They're just measuring how many people come and go through the gift shop."

"I think if you give the public a chance to represent themselves, to express, you'll be surprised."

So far, the patrons agree, at least those interviewed by BBC reporter Duncan Kennedy.

"Just watching the other people as they interacted and they each come about it differently was creative in itself," said one unidentified woman to Kennedy.

But what is pleasing to patrons isn't always fun for Elizabeth-Ann MacGregor, the museum's executive director.

"To be honest, it's a complete nightmare, because so many works of art should not be touched because they are delicate or maybe the surface is fragile," she told Kennedy. "We're giving very mixed messages out, but there's no doubt about it: Our audience wants to interact."

The exhibition runs through mid-February.

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this article, the name of the exhibit was mislabeled. We apologize for the error.

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