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Art Break: Complicate your Life with a Goldberg Machine

Art Break is back and this month I wanted to take a look at the ridiculously complicated Goldberg Machine.  Named after the artist and inventor Rube Goldberg, the machines are basically a series of chain reactions that in the end accomplish a very simple, possibly unnecessary task.  That doesn’t exactly sound very interesting, but take a look at kinetic artist Joseph Herscher’s Goldberg called “The Page Turner:”

I find them fascinating and it looks like you might too – Herscher’s YouTube video has been viewed over 8 million times! Advertisers have also caught on to our interest in these contraptions and companies like Honda, Purina and Pepsi have used them in their commercials – arguably some with more success than others.

One of my favorites is Purina Beneful’s Dog Goldberg ad. It’s fun, gets their message across easily and includes cute dogs – what’s not to like? The dogs become part of this Goldberg Machine and assist the process along the way. It starts with one dog launching a tennis ball to another who then sets off the next chain reaction, later a dog catches a frisbee and runs to knock down boxes of dog treats lined up like over-sized dominos. Towards the end of the machine, a basket of tennis balls is released from the ceiling and dogs joyfully run around in the excitement. The closing message, “Play. It’s good for you.” ties it all together.

Pepsi Max’s recent New Year’s ad, in my opinion, missed the mark. The commercial advertises Pepsi Max – that’s diet Pepsi with ginseng in case you didn’t know – and encourages watchers to have “maximum celebration” with “no fireworks” by showing a chain reaction with hundreds of ping-pong balls flying through the air. There are definitely some Goldberg-like characteristics all through the commercial, but in the end the main focus is the airborne ping-pong balls. While this is cool, what would be even cooler is if one of the ping-pong balls hit a lever, the lever released a bowling ball, the bowling ball knocked over a container that opened a can of Pepsi.

Let’s build one of these to make the coffee tomorrow morning – what do you say?

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