Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Excel at Pinball

Excel at Pinball displaying my World pinball ranking

I have been processing how all this playing (as research, as well as a hobby) feeds into my practice as an artist. In taking a different approach than focusing on the ambition of building a pinball machine, I've been making 'sketches' relating to pinball.

The concept for Excel at Pinball came from observing a league meeting where a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet was displaying the live scores on a large screen.

Players checking the live scores, back in December at Special When Lit league

Formulas and spreadsheets sitting alongside play and games just seems a bit bizarre. I do know from attending these meets that we all want to know how we size up against the other players in the competition, and for the more professional, what that means to their world rankings - it's important. 

The setup with back projection to 'the screen'
Eventually I intend these scores to display live directly from the IFPA website, and cycle through all my different stats. There's also possibility of showing my rivals scores to motivate to score more points...
Displaying my UK ranking

I've said a few times before I love coming up with ideas and working out how to produce them, so this one was no different.

I originally thought a metal cage of excel cells, trapping a ball, but eventually came to the idea of smashing a ball through the screen in anarchy of the formalities of the game. But how can I drill a hole in a screen?... (I don't want to do this). I've used backlit projection in projects before so decided to go with projection.

I made a maquette to test the idea based on the dimensions of a regular pinball.

Excel at Pinball maquette
Excel at Pinball maquette - hand made cardboard & marble (pre lasercut)

After the test projection I knew I needed to scale up to get better results with projection, but how would this scale? It would loose something if the ball was tiny in the middle of the screen, the point is the massive ball smashing and taking over the screen - reminding us about the unpredictable nature of the game.

After a night of rigorous googlin' I found the perfect object to act as the pinball in the scaled up version... these hollow garden ornaments!
Garden Gazing Ornaments on Amazon
To sum up this piece, it's about the physical and digital coming together, but how that's done needs to make sense. My main interest in pinball lies in the physicality of the game in it's simplest form. How it works almost seamlessly alongside digital technology, adds a layer to the game which fits into my research and interests as an artist. Excel at Pinball is playing with some of these ideas, but it still feels like early days for me.

These recent pieces are meant as sketches so it's good to be analytical. Could I have actually smashed pinballs into glass? I'm not sure, maybe I should find out...