Perry Hoberman
Workaholic
In Workaholic (2000), a pendulum hangs from the ceiling, with an omnidirectional bar code scanner as the bob (the weight) at the end of the cable. The scanner casts an intense red laser beam downward as it skims the floor, reading symbols printed on a 12 foot diameter bar code carpet. A projected image covers the carpet, generated by a video projector mounted high above on the ceiling. An octagonal railing surrounds the pendulum and carpet, with holsters for eight pneumatic air-guns, disguised as ordinary hair dryers. Participants can influence the pendulum's path over the bar code carpet by aiming the hair dryers and shooting blasts of air.

The scanner swings back and forth, constantly reading the various bar codes. This information is transmitted (as ASCII characters) to a Macintosh G4 computer. There are approximately 1500 unique three-character bar codes printed in a spiral pattern emanating from the center of the bar code carpet, each with an unique address, which the software can use to determine the location and path of the pendulum.The pendulum, controlled by physical laws, collides with projected objects in a three-dimensional virtual world that obey the laws of a virtual physics, with simulated gravity, collisions and shadows.

Rather than allowing a sense of a bounded cause-and-effect interaction, the air gun/pendulum interface is always a bit out of control. It is very direct, but it doesn't allow users to select particular bar codes to scan. By shooting blasts of air, users can alter the pendulum’s movements. Of course, the greater the number of simultaneous users, the less repetitive (and the more chaotic) the pendulum's path will be. Each path represents a kind of virtual machine, each made of elements that can be recombined and resequenced endlessly.

Workaholic refers to the pendulum both as the prototypical timekeeping device (Galileo's great discovery of 1583), as well as the protoypical machine, ceaselessly producing work (force times displacement) - in this case images and the transformation of images.