Bernie Lubell

Bernie Lubell, A Little Breathing Room

Bernie Lubell

Bernie Lubell (US) is an artist who makes "interactive wood machines".

Bernie Lubell's interactive installations are inspired by his studies in both psychology and physics. He creates participatory works that involve no (electronic or digital) technology, but akin to medieval constructions, are made of wood, strings and tubes. His works include a stone age digital computer, a rainstorm of chaos and nostalgia, a phone booth-confessional network, a mechanism to investigate intimacy and room-sized simulations of the human body: heart, brain and breathing.

Take A Little Breathing Room from 2007:

Made of pine, latex, music wire, black rubber rope, copper, nylon line. It measured 12' x 45' x 10'.

Riding a bike rotates a large wood blower at high speed causing a double latex wall to breathe rhythmically. The air flow also produces a tone in 10' wood organ pipe. A second participant may interact with the latex sheet riding the rhythmic breath and changing the organ tone.

One of his aims seems to engage the audience in playful relationships, as they discover the workings and meanings of his artworks - or their own perception of them. Different from "interactive" artworks - that might work on a passive spectator, Lubell's need to be actively powered. As he points out in his artist statement:

I make interactive installations that focus on the intersection of science and the arts -- but my work is adamantly low-tech. These installations use no computers or video or motors and are entirely powered by visitors to the show. As visitors work together to animate the mechanisms they create a theatre for themselves and each other. By requiring participation, touch and manipulation I get the audience to engage their bodies as well as their minds. As they play, participants tap into the vast reservoir of knowledge stored in each of their own bodies and they become active partners in constructing an understanding. The way that pieces move and feel and sound as you rock them, pedal, crank, press against and listen applies the kinesthetic comprehension's of childhood to the tasks of philosophy. [more]

Lubell has been called a media-archaeologist-artist, like his friend Paul DeMarinis, and he is inspired by the early works of the French physiologist, Étienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904). Lubell's large scale wooden installation come with scientific-poetic titles that tease the brain while the bodies powers the installations.

Lubell has been exhibiting his installations since the early 1980s, and his artwork has been shown in America and in Europe. He has received an Award of Distinction from Ars Electronica in 2007 for Conservation of Intimacy, Pollack Krasner Foundation Grants in 2002 and 1991, had a residency at the Tryon center for the Visual Arts in 2002, an Individual Artist Grant from The Art Council S.F. in 2001, an Artists Fellowship from the California Arts Council in 1996, a residency at the Liberty Science Center with Paul DeMarinis in Jersey City in 1995, a residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito in 1993, and an Artists Project Grant (with Paul DeMarinis) from the NEA in 1991.


Read the interview Machines of Entanglement with Bernie Lubell by Arie Altena.

On FACT.TV on A Theory of Entanglement and an interview with the artist.


In 2020 Bernie Lubell created a large and in-depth overview of his work in PDF-form. This publication, entitled Intimacy, Entanglement and Doubt, can be downloaded from dropbox.

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