Day 4 – Art reducing Life to mechanical functions, croissants, uncomfortable train journey, and Freaky Flicks!


[June 19th]

I’m packed into my teeny firefox rucksack, we go to a ‘breakfast’ lecture at Fact with artist Bernie Lubell and writer/Marey biographer Marta Braun with coffee and croissants.

It was a delight to rediscover Étienne-Jules Marey, that crazy scientific genius who invented the precursors to the machine that goes “bing” in the hospital. Oh ok, a bit more than that. He invented all of these amazing ways to record and help understand processes of breathing, and circulation, translate movement into sound and marks on a roll of paper – the precursor for the heart monitor and the seismograph. He managed to record the mechanics of flight in birds, and supported intellectually and financially early research into human flight. He invented interesting and fabulous ways of capturing movement on a series of photographs, with inadvertently starting the animated curio and then movie industry. His services to art (the futurists, and Dada) and computer animation (motion capture for realistic movement) are numerous and astounding.

Bernie Lubell was recreating some of the apparatus of Marey – whose original work was precision hand-tooled in brass and copper and rubber – with rough sawn pieces of wood, elastic bands, string and wire. Lubell makes work to interact with, that requires strangers in the gallery to cooperate in various ways to get things to work.

Bernie Lubell is not interested in preciseness. He is not interested in humans as perfect machines. He believes that it is more truthful to think of them as IMperpfect machines. Things go wrong all the time. Its a wonder that we are walking around at all, that we got this far, seeing that there are so many design flaws! He says that he feels its important to have his contraptions in this state. Maintain them at the point just before breaking.

Lubell made it so that people need to cooperate, sometimes even unintentionally, to get things to work. The Theory of Entanglement requires the sofa in the cafe to be sat upon before the two people pedalling madly in the foyer can knit anything. There is something quite lovely about artwork that is not just to look at, or interact with, but something positive, outside, connected with other people.

My little mind is ticking now, how can I make that happen? What can I do? Not sure yet.

I make my train back to Cambridge, with a change at Ely. Its pleasant enough. I wish there was more room for feets, not all of us want to play footsie with strangers under the table. I muse a little, thinking that it could have been intentional, some engineer artist manufacturing interaction, chance meetings, entanglements. Perhaps romances have started this way, what starts of as innocent shifting of feet in a confined space turns to explorative playfulness, and then intimacy between strangers on a train.

Freaky Flicks at the Arts Picture House Bar, with the Man from Uranus presenting, was fun and silly. We watched actual factual public health films from 1950s USA warning high-school kids about the dangers of drugs.