Rube Goldberg’s Ghost: Confounding Design and Laborious Objects
Pull Lever. Twist this. Crank here. The exhibit in the Glass Curtain Gallery of 1104 South Wabash, Rube Goldberg’s Ghost: Confounding Designs and Laborious Object asks their guests to interact with the unique contraptions inspired by Rube Goldberg’s complicated technical art. As much a fun concept this is for an exhibition, the execution and presentation of the “interactive” pieces lack in the aesthetics department. The artists created some very original, thoughtful and experimental designs pointing at social commentaries and bureaucratic systems, however it is debatable weather the presence of the largest moving pieces contribute to the exhibition or distract from it.
Focusing on the good, the packet at the front desk of the gallery is a wonderful, colorful and informative pamphlet explaining everything one needs to know about the exhibit in an interesting and structured way. It provides a history of Rube Goldberg as well as examples of his work for viewers who, like me, may not be previously familiar with his cartoonist artwork of impossible machines. Perfectly illustrating this is a film by Joseph Herscher entitled The Page Turner, which is literally a Rube Goldberg machine brought to life on film. An ornate centerpiece entitled Venue for Advanced Conflict Resolution by Graem Whyte is a geometric “crumpled up” ping pong table invites the viewer to attempt to “play” and like many other pieces features an underlying socio economic meaning and function underneath the art. This piece as well as a very interested sculpture by Juan Angle Chavez entitled Last Breath that involves carved wood as well as found objects to create the most visually stunning piece in the exhibit. This piece as well as every other piece in the exhibit has profound hidden bureaucratic messages Rube Goldberg would be proud of.
It is the pieces that start moving that, while with great intentions and creativity, pale in comparison to the rest of the work. For example, Mark Porter’s Autohaemorrhaging Actuator has an intense concept of auto defense response replication of animals activating a spraying reaction. However the execution is noisy, messy, and jumbled. While it was an amazing idea to use bright neon colors as the “spray” and an innovative design to make the piece motion activated, the structure looks sloppy and uninviting. On the same note, Conrad Freidburg’s A Great Daydream uses intricate engineering within three separate display boxes, which uses crafted wood and interactive levers to move around ball bearings depending on the viewers maneuvering, however the balls rarely do what you wish them to. In a gold plate on the box, the words “to relish the cumulative result of your human power upon the mechanisms produced in honor of a document that allows for its own destruction, should it prove necessary for the public good.” This piece is thoughtful, reminiscent of Rube Goldberg and intricate, however the execution leaves more to be desired.
The essence of Rube Goldberg’s cartoonist art is impossibly complex structures, that are way to intense for reality, much like some of the pieces in this exhibit. However this set back does not discredit the experience of the entire show. The thoughtfulness and social commentary is enough for anyone to experience such an elaborate and informational exhibit.