Lynn Hershman Leeson

Breathing Machines


“There is a reliance on looking beyond the surface, into the mechanics of process even in these early projects that involve drawing, painting and sculpture that form the organizing core and armature of an aesthetic of perception that would evolve, particularly in the evolution of cyborgs.” —Civic Radar

These works from the mid-1960s referred to generally as the Breathing Machines featured concealed motion sensors that, when triggered by a viewer’s approach, set off recordings of the artist’s respiratory exertions. In 2021, Lynn explained to Art21 that creating the sculptures “was like a drawing. It was sound that extended into space.”

View the project dossier [PDF]

Breathing Machine - 1967

Breathing Machine, 1967, wax, wig, glass eye, makeup, plexiglass, wood, sensors, sound, 32 x 42 x 42 cm

Breathing Machine - 1967

Butterfly Woman Sleeping, 1967, wax, wig, cloth, glass eye, paint, glitter, butterflies, feathers, sensors, wooden board, sound, wood, electrical wiring, 41.9 × 41.9 × 33 cm

Breathing Machine - 1967

Breathing Machine III, 1968