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Lucas Abela: Pinball Pianola

Piano plus pinball equals playable art.
By Lauren Carroll Harris
November 30, 2012
By Lauren Carroll Harris
November 30, 2012

Lucas's Abela's Pinball Pianola is part of a group show at Firstdraft. It's an artwork that is what it says it’s about - no theoretical nods to Deleuze or artspeak catchwords like ‘trans-territorial’ in the description. Lucas Abela (with Keg de Souza and Kris Hades) has grafted what he calls a “Frankenstein” monster: an upright piano, gutted and repurposed as a pinball machine (check it out in this video). You pull the plunger and let a pinball loose into the guts of the instrument. The pianola’s keys are hooked up to flippers: play the keys and the pinball bounces up from the flippers to strike the instrument’s strings, creating haphazard, live sound art. A dashboard allows you to tinker with the machine’s output - more noise, less fuzz, higher pitch.
It’s a certifiably bonkers piece of interactive art with a strong sense of creative freedom and childlike zeal. Abela is uber-creative, there are millions of visual and audio ideas going on and the complexity of the engineering is pretty impressive.
The work goes beyond being a mere experiment in manufactured weirdness. With Pinball Pianola, Abela has crafted a machine that lets the audience play and create collectively, on the fly and in the moment. It’s all about music and art as accidental results of play, and forcing strangers to interact with each other in what’s often a sterile gallery environment. Play is an underrated quality in contemporary art, and Abela has created something really engaging and quite awe-inspiring - an intelligent crowdpleaser.
There’s also a second creation - a pentagram-shaped pinball game for five players called “Balls for Cthulhu”. The walls are fashioned from guitar necks with the fret boards exposed to be struck by the pinballs, and audience members can sign up for when the game will be available to play during the course of the show. Multiple visits recommended.

At launch, Balls for Cthulhu still had some technical issues and was expected to be operational for December 4.

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