Spinball Wizards

2001, experimental intervention, Joachim Stein, Martin Widerberg

After the burst of the IT bubble in 2000, we wanted to go into IT companies and investigate the spirite and culture inside those companies and how they dealt with the new situation. Their jargon was still the same as a year earlier when everybody still believed that the sky was the limit.

Spining Ball

Spinning Ball

spinning

spinning

We found employees and entrepreneurs traumatized by the discovery that there was no market for their products and services and that no one trusted their business models. There was no concept of how to adjust to the changes in the business environment. The companies that still had money to burn often continued working on projects that had become obsolete or ends in themselves.

In the days of the hype even small projects were calculated in person days, hours were peanuts. We decided that whatever our intervention was going to be, this was the scale we had to work with.

Of course our budget was ridiculous compared the figures that IT companies dealt with even after the crash of the market. Alone the minimal wage for holders of green card, introduced in Germany just a couple of months earlier in order to allow high tech companies to employ foreign specialists, exceeded our own income multiple times. And after all we were considerably successful artists.

passing the spinning ball

passing the ball

In company meetings the topics were “reduction of the cash burn rate” and most of all finding new investors. Usually there was also talk about obscure clients who still wanted to buy the technology but for some reason needed time to finally sign the contract. Deadlines were discussed as if they still mattered and as if anybody gave a damn.

In those meetings managers often resembled gurus preaching to employees who seemed like brainwashed disciples, paralyzed by the fear that life outside their company did not exist.

It occurred to us that the connection we had with them was the permanent struggle for meaning and the believe in a product that was entirely virtual.

As artists we were of course far more experienced in that area and their panic seemed a bit childish from our perspective. They were greenhorns. The business world had obviously not even started to understand what had happened on a more profound level.

We decided that the best thing we could do, was buying something from them, request a service that was an end in itself. One can create art by buying something. We wanted our intervention to be affirmative in the way that it did not question the hype as everybody else did at the time but rather embrace it as what it had been: La grande fête de l’art pour l’art.

The company we finally signed a deal with, Artnology, even had the word “art” in their name. Whoever came up with the name did probably not distinguish between “art” and “design” and thought the name was a good way to show that they cared about style. Joachim knew one of the founders from high school and they were interested. We ordered one person day from Artnology. In a contract we specified with great accuracy when and how the service was going to be delivered.

They had to keep one of those power balls or spin balls or whatever the original name is spinning for one day (8 hours) without interruption. A friend of ours had once called the spin ball an auto erotic toy. Just like coding it can be quite addictive and while the sensation is very special, the movement is hardly visible for another person. The better you get with the spinball, the faster you can accelerate it with a smaller movement of the arm.

Artnology delivered without delay. They had a team of 6 programmers and the secretary work on it. They actually invented a smart rotation system that allowed the programmers to have breaks of one hour minimum in which the could work on other projects. In the end they calculated that they roughly spent 1.5 person days to deliver one to us (their client).

They told us that the ratio was about the same as for other clients maybe even a bit better, because less communication was required.