On March 13th, Weber Thompson had the honor of participating in Seattle Art Museum’s Remix event, a late night, choose-your-own-adventure extravaganza of performances, activities, dancing and more. Our contribution to the event was a custom Dada-inspired Rube Goldberg machine.
Why SAM Remix? And why a Rube Goldberg machine? It all started in September with our Park(ing) Day installation, a 7’ x 35’ temporary Rube Goldberg machine on Thomas Street. SAM saw a clip of our installation, and invited us to create one for Remix. AIA Seattle and Arcade Magazine were among the list of sponsors, so we figured we better join in the fun as well. We were all in.
A crew of WT volunteers quickly assembled to discuss our RG. We wanted to use mostly found materials and ready-made objects, because our inspiration came loosely from SAM’s current exhibit The Duchamp Effect and the Dada movement.
A trip to Ballard Reuse, an all-office call for materials, and a few Goodwill runs later, we had most of the needed materials, and a sketch of our machine. The week leading up to the event, evening work parties found us sculpting, drilling and nailing into the dark hours of the night.
When the big day arrived, we spent the better part of the day loading, unloading, and assembling our exhibit. Working diligently up until the doors opened (sweating bullets all the while), we had our machine working smoothly after just a few tries.
The sold out event attracted a crowd of 2,500 (the museum’s maximum capacity) and boy, was it packed! Each of the museum’s hallways, galleries and meeting rooms were crammed with an installation or performance. Our RG machine was installed in a board room which also contained one of the many temporary bars set up throughout the building, so we enjoyed a steady stream of spectators all evening.
For a group of architects and designers, it’s a piece of cake to draw up an architectural detail or floorplan, but designing a kinetic sculpture offers a unique set of challenges. Each element of the machine needed to be interesting in its own right, and the connections between each action needed to be reliable and easy to reset. Unlike many of the popular Rube Goldberg machines out there, this wasn’t an installation that could only work once, ours needed to work continuously throughout the night!
Being part of a fabulous night of art and design was reward enough, but designing and installing our Rube Goldberg machine was a lot of fun as well. A big thank you to everyone who helped with or contributed to our machine, including Greg Kono, Troop 252 for the use of their pinewood derby track, and Ballard Reuse for renting us their plinko board.
We have already begun planning out our next ‘useless machine,’ so stay tuned!