PUSHBUTTONS FROM THE
DEMENTED SCIENCE MUSEUM
2004 W. Beaty
A blank white wall in the gallery contains unobtrusive white pushbuttons,
each button spaced about 4ft from the next, with each one about 3ft about
the floor. Each button is labeled "PUSH."
(Note: This first group of 8 would function as a single button)
Button #1a: cloud of deafness
Hidden loudspeakers throughout the gallery constantly play multi-
channel soundtracks of air conditioning equipment, hissing noises, low-level
crowd sounds, distant traffic, etc. Since the sound comes from many
loudspeakers and isn't obtrusive, we'd perceive it as being
city sounds and building noise rather than
PUSH THE BUTTON. The sound cuts off suddenly.
Since the sound seemed like it was part of the environment, the sudden
silence has strange psychology. Participants will interpret it either
deafness (it feels distinctly like pillows suddenly cover our ears...) or
we'd interpret it subconsciously as a dangerous event in the wilderness;
all the birds and insects suddenly go quiet. Everyone in the gallery halts
and looks around to see what happened. This contributes to the silence!
Half a minute later the sound slowly slowly returns to its original volume
(and the button is disabled during this time.)
Button #1b: freudian symbol 1
PUSH THE BUTTON. The center of the pushbutton starts growing.
It extends to maybe 12",
then drops off onto the floor. Another button takes its place.
(The mechanism behind the wall contains a 'magazine' of perhaps fifty
plastic rods, so the device can be triggered many times.) The confused
visitor will be at a loss for what to do about this plastic rod.
Button #1c. seriously broken machine
PUSH THE BUTTON. The entire button assembly moves inwards (rather than
just the button-cap.) It retracts, leaving a dark pipe mouth. Blue flashes
are seen within, then all the lights in the gallery become momentarily dim.
A grinding noise is heard within the wall, and smoke issues from the pipe.
After 30 seconds the button re-appears. NOTE: if "1c" happens after
the freudianly-growing button has dropped off, perhaps the gallery
visitors will try to jam the long plastic rod back into the button. This
will make the exhibit "fail." Heh.
Button #1d. freudian symbol 2
PUSH THE BUTTON SEVERAL TIMES. It doesn't like that. The raised button-cap
retracts and becomes flush with the wall. The 1 cm bezel surrounding the
button also retracts. The 2" raised wall-box on which the button is mounted
also retracts and becomes flush. The black sign, "PUSH", turns the same color
as the wall (it was an LCD.) The entire affair has vanished; it becomes a shiny
flat surface with unnoticed thin cracks marking where the button had been.
After several minutes the button assembly slowly grows outwards again, then the
LCD "PUSH" sign appears again.
Button #1e. frozen moment
PUSH THE BUTTON. There is an extremely LOUD "beep" which makes you
jump. Nothing more. However, there is a pinhole video camera
hidden behind a crack in the wall in front of your face. A PC records a
single image of your grimace during the "beep," and the image is displayed on
a large monitor near the entrance of the gallery. The victim noticed
earlier, but didn't realize the significance. The victim won't notice their
displayed image unless they exit the gallery and then look backwards.
Button #1f. shave and a haircut
PUSH THE BUTTON. Several distinct air blasts strike you on the back.
They tap out a simple percussion rhythm. The airblast launcher is
silent, and is mounted on the ceiling near the button wall.
Button #1g. on-off switch
PUSH THE BUTTON. Suddenly there is a distant muffled chorus of
voices saying "awwwww!" This is followed by many different voices
yelling "lights!" "hey!" "turn it on!" (pounding noise on the
wall) "hey, lights!" "who's out there?!" "I can't find the door!"
If you push the button again, the voices stop. If you push the button
again, the voices start again, but it's a DIFFERENT set of complaining
voices, so that the overall effect won't sound so much like a recording
being triggered. Some sort of solenoid actually pounds on the wall, to
give a more realistic effect.
Button #1h. day in the life
PUSH THE BUTTON. A distant video camera aimed at the wall will record
a few frames at the instant you pushed the button. These video frames
are added to a growing time-lapse recording which plays on a monitor
nearby. On the monitor, the image of the gallery environment is
unmoving, and the button stays
frozen in the center, while flickering shapes of hundreds of different
people are displayed in a continuous loop, where each person has an
arm extended to push the button.
The above buttons can all be combined into a single pushbutton. Each time
you press it, you get another one of the above functions.
Button #2. disk
PUSH THE BUTTON. The whole button starts to move slightly. In
fact the button is mounted near the edge of a 3ft disk which
is inset into the wall. The entire disk starts rotating, carrying
the button with it. The disk is painted the same as the wall, so
its motion will be nearly invisible. Only the off-center location
of the moving pushbutton is a clue. (Perhaps hide four buttons under
white wall panels. When the disk turns rapidly, the present button
will be replaced with one which looks quite different.)
Button #3. Virtual button
PUSH THE BUTTON. Your finger passes through it as if it wasn't
there. Yet the button still moves inward when "pushed," and perhaps
a light within the button turns on. The button is an optical real-image
produced by a large telescope reflector or searchlight mirror.
Opto sensors detect your finger, and motors move the real pushbutton.
When the real pushbutton moves, the 3D image moves as well.
Button #4. Stanley Milgram Memorial
PUSH THE BUTTON. You hear a sizzling zap, and a voice behind the
wall says "ouch!", then it demands that you not push the button again.
If you do push it again, the voice yells louder, then asks very
politely for you not to push the button again. If you do, the voice
then begs and wheedles. More button-pushing gives similar increasing
effect, then just some grunts, then silence.
Button #5. Shrinking!
PUSH THE BUTTON.
The button, the wall surface, the electrical outlets, and all the nearby
artwork suddenly move upwards. The wall is actually a huge canvas belt
which is driven by motors. Since the victim is standing so close to the
wall, the effect will be to convince them NOT that the wall is moving,
but that they are shrinking, or perhaps falling downwards. (Perhaps
trigger the Cloud of Deafness too, and dim down the spotlights, which
suggests a fainting spell.)
Button #6. Ripple
PUSH THE BUTTON. The whole
wall Ripples, starting at the button and moving outwards. The wall
surrounding the button is made up of white plastic rings, all carefully
fitted and adjusted to give only hairline cracks between them. When
triggered, the servos driving each ring momentarily move the ring inwards
by a couple of cm, then the next moves, then the next.
Button #7. evil children
A kinetic sculpture on a pedestal is watched by a video camera
and controlled by several buttons. The video monitor and buttons are
semi-hidden: they're mounted on a wall under a table out of the
line of sight of adults. Only kids will notice the monitor and the
glowing buttons, and crawl under the table. One button moves the
sculpture. Another fires an air blast towards anyone standing in
front of it. Another sends out a cloud of smoke. (This setup
only works if numerous adults are in the gallery at the same time
that kids (or very short adults) have discovered the secret command