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Monday, 10 August 2009

Art is Fun

Yes it is.

I had the chance to go home to the North-West for a few days last week. I was tired and unhappy and I wanted to go home so I did just that.
I live quite close to Liverpool and I went for a day out...the city has changed a lot in the last few years, every time I go it seems different. I like Liverpool very much.

The Fact centre (Foundation for Arts and Creative Technologies) has an exhibition of work by Bernie Lubell at the moment....A mechanised knitting machine powered by gallery visitors and someone sitting on a sofa, a coffin where you get in and talk to the rest of the gallery through a basic amplifier, a machine mimicking the musical rhythms of the heart, a pedal powered seismograph recording the movements of a couple on a bench...

The piece from which the exhibition takes its name - 'A Theory of Entanglement' - sits in the main atrium of the centre looking like some unwieldy Victorian design of a beautiful, elaborately constructed, yet ultimately useless machine. I sat down on a seat facing a set of pedals, which were connected to a series of gears and rubber bands powering other bands and gears. These gears were in turn connected to a giant mechanised knitting-machine/cable maker. I pedaled hard along with some encouragement from a man from Cornwall who later upstairs questioned whether this was ‘Art’ or not – I didn’t understand what he meant by this so I walked away from the conversation we were having with a gallery assistant.

What I really liked about this was that I could be pedaling all I liked to contribute a few millimetres to the length of knitted cable - now reaching to the floor since the exhibition’s opening in June - but the power from the pedals only linked to the knitting machine if there was the weight of someone sitting on a sofa in the cafĂ© to connect the two parts of the mechanism by a clever system of pulleys and weights. What interested me so much about this was that those sitting on the sofa had little idea their presence in that spot was helping to produce this ever-growing piece of fabric, they weren't aware of the collaboration they were taking part in.

It was unfortunate that I went on a Wednesday (FACT is a cinema also and seemingly the pull of 'Orange Wednesdays' drew many of the visitors away from the gallery) since many of the sculpture couldn't be worked on your own. I sheepishly asked one of the gallery assistants if they would help me with the pedal powered seismograph, he sat on a bench connected by tubes and wires linked to an apparatus whilst I pedaled to power the paper feed and hey presto before soon I was getting a readout of this guy's movements on the bench. This is a really exciting show, one of the few that I've been to where to make the pieces 'work' you have to ask others in the gallery to help you out. At first the show just seems really fun but it goes much deeper than that.

The...what might you call it...'heart pump' of the piece 'Etiology of Innocence' also needed at least two people to complete it; you pumped a rubber mechanical heart that in turn was connected to a wind up drawing machine, whilst someone the other side of the room could listen to the replicated music of a heart beat powered by the whole thing. Brilliant.

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