Friday 18 October 2013

On Rube Goldberg

Almost 42,000,000 people have already seen this short film, and marvelled at it, and then watched it again and perhaps again. But it's new to me, and I expect many of my readers will be unaware of it.

So, here is an American (?) band called OK Go performing (or given the context presumably miming along to) their song This Too Shall Pass. The music is humdrum but the fabulously elaborate Rube Goldberg device synchronised to their performance is quite marvellous in its ramshackle kinetic ingenuity - it really beggars belief. Was it all done in one continuous take? I find that very hard to believe, but what the hell. Click here and wonder.

Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer and inventor and the American equivalent to Britain's Heath Robinson.  Goldberg's forte was the design and construction of complex contraptions to perform simple, mundane tasks.

In 1987 the Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss applied Goldberg's approach in the art film Der Lauf der Dinge (The Way Things Go), an epic thirty-minute chain reaction involving  tyres, chairs, tables ladders, soap, oil drums, old shoes, chemicals, fire and water. It's an hypnotically watchable study in causality (although it does appear to have multiple edits to create an illusion of continuity).  Unlike the OK Go video this has been seen by a few thousand viewers only. You can watch it here.

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