Bernie Lubell: Conservation of Intimacy
July 3 – September 19, 2010
An interactive installation presented in partnership with the 01SJ Art Biennial.
The 2010 01SJ Biennial theme Build Your Own World is predicated on the notion that we have the tools to (re)build our own world. The future is not about what is next; it is about what we can build to ensure that what is next matters. In partnership with the 01SJ Biennial the ICA presents Bernie Lubell: Conservation of Intimacy, an interactive environment where every person’s participation is significant. The low-tech wood installations actually require the cooperation of people in order to work, powerfully suggesting that by engaging with each other and our surroundings, we can solve problems and re-envision our world.
In true Silicon Valley fashion, Lubell has created his machines in his San Francisco garage for over 30 years. However, instead of working with computers and electronics, he collaborates with pine wood and ancient technologies –cranks, pulleys and springs for instance– to build the interactive works. The machines have the appearance of a different era – a time of the master craftsmen and nineteenth century technology. In fact, the creations are rooted in Lubell’s deep interest in historic scientific instruments. In particular Lubell takes inspiration from the work of French physiologist Étienne-Jules Marey. A mechanical genius, Marey developed myriad sophisticated pneumatic contraptions in the late nineteenth century to precisely measure movement and make visible what is otherwise invisible, including a machine that simulated a heart beat and a pulse-reading device that was a precursor for medical imaging.
With his background in engineering and psychology, Lubell designs his interactive wood machines based on experience. He begins his process with a question – about intimacy, the nature of being human, the theory of entanglement- and looks to archaic technology to manifest these complicated concepts into a mechanical device. His process is trial-and-error and the resulting creations reflect the complexity of life: they are fragile-looking yet sturdy, poetic and surreal. Not until the works come in contact with us, the visitors of the exhibition, do they come alive and open a world of possibility and wonder.
Born in Baltimore, Lubell is based in San Francisco. His interactive installations have exhibited nationally and internationally, most recently at FACT, Liverpool and V2 in Rotterdam. Lubell has received numerous awards including and Award of Distinction from Ars Electronica, an Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation grant in 2009 and Pollack Kranser Foundation Grants in 2002 and 1991.