The Origins of Innocence

"The Origins of Innocence" is the first European solo exhibition of the American artist Bernie Lubell, realized in collaboration with FACT from Liverpool.

Oct 2009
Nov 2009
22:00 to 23:00
location: Witte de Withstraat 63, Rotterdam

Bernie Lubell’s work shows that interactive art in 2009 need not always be digital. He will place not high-tech interfaces or computers but rather analogue, mechanical installations made of wood, springs and rope and driven by muscle power in the exhibition space at V2_.

The viewers themselves will operate these massive installations by means of cranks, wheels and pedal mechanisms. The Origins of Innocence is about movement and connectedness, cause and effect. Setting a machine in motion through an innocent action in one place, the visitor is surprised by inexplicable movements, sounds and images in a completely different location. Machines suddenly squeak and creak to life. 

Lubell combines various themes in his installations, ranging from personal experiences to a predilection for the 19th-century industrial age. Thus he refers to the work of Etienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904), a French researcher who was fascinated by human and animal movement and recorded it mechanically using a technology he developed himself, chronophotography. When Lubell suffered heart trouble in 1995, Marey’s studies took on special meaning for Lubell, and the complex relationship between body and machine became the point of departure for his subsequent work. In The Origins of Innocence, the visitor is the heart of the installation.

Lubell previously exhibited at the 2007 Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria, where his work won the Award of Distinction, the prize for the most distinguished interactive work of art. 

Please note that the artworks need you to interact with them to make them function, so feel free to pedal, touch, wind and even get inside the artworks, and ask the gallery assistants if you need to know what to do.

logo FACT

This exhibition is organized in partnership with FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) in Liverpool. http://www.fact.co.uk; and is made possible with the support of: Mondriaan Foundation, Dienst Kunst en Cultuur gemeente Rotterdam, SNS Reaal Fonds, Ministerie van OCW and NaDrUk

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

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.

also on Youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FY0NfUe0T1U

credits: FACT, (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool.

Selection of works

...and the Synapse Sweetly Singing

...And The Synapse Sweetly Singing

When Bernie's mother was very ill, he could only communicate with her over long distance via the telephone. Towards the end of her life she became increasingly frail and her voice was difficult to understand. Bernie wanted to make a work in response to this, so he created a tin can telephone system. When his mother died he added a coffin to the piece, from his desire to continue communicating with her beyond the grave.


Etiology of Innocence

Etiology of Innocence

After being diagnosed with a serious heart condition and undergoing life saving surgery, Bernie made this work as a simulation of the human heart which takes at least two people to complete the experience. One person winds the heart pump, another operates the clockwork recorder and a third person observes the bouncing, breathing, beating and gurgling mechanisms in the inner chambers.

Conservation of Intimacy

Conservation of Intimacy

A couple rocking on the bench sends air pulses to another room causing balls to move and pens to transcribe the couple's motions onto paper. The paper is moved by a third person riding a stationary bike. The couple on the bench can also watch a video monitor before them where the balls appear to bounce into the air. The motion is delayed and languid as though under water. The action of the balls is best when the couple is moving slowly together. Conservation of Intimacy suggests that if there are mechanical laws which apply to our social world, intimacy may be fundamental. As both an homage to and critique of science's insatiable quest to understand everything, the piece extends Marey's mechanistic endeavors into the realm of intimacy.




Aphasiogram reflects the artist's interest in language, and the magical potential of language to make both good and bad things happen. The questionnaire asks you to trace a route from word to word from where you are now until you get the idea of 'heaven'. Although we may get to 'heaven' through language, this device automatically and pneumatically strips away the verbal meaning of your journey leaving a tracing which may reflect something else entirely.


Cheek to Cheek

Cheek to Cheek

As you move about on the stool, your lower cheeks cause bladders below the seat to pump air to bladders next to your upper cheeks, allowing you to dance with yourself 'cheek to cheek'. (With apologies to Irving Berlin, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers). The bladders are Bernie's version of Marey's tambours which he used to sense and transcribe physiological processes.


A Theory of Entanglement

A Theory of Entanglement

This piece requires two people to pedal together at different speeds on wooden bicycles, while others sit on a sofa in the center of the exhibition space. Only when the right combination of actions take place will it result in the slow crocheting of a giant knot from the knitting drum overhead. Over the course of the exhibition visitors' actions will cause the knot to grow longer and gradually descend towards the floor.

Parts of A Theory of Entanglement have been provocatively labelled 'Labor' for bike riders, 'Capital' for those sitting at the sofa and 'Craft' for the knitting itself. In this installation both labor and capital are required for the craft to unfold. 

A Theory of Entanglement references the modernist era and bears visual resemblance to artist Marcel Duchamp's Large Glass (1915-1923), a connection the artist made at the time of designing the work. Through it's mechanical complexity and the actions required to make it work, the piece also references the age of industrialization.

In the title 'entanglement' alludes to an aspect of quantum physics whereby particles such as electrons, which share common histories, will always act in synchrony even if they are later separated and have no means of combination.

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