The Pataphysical Slot Machine

Behold The Pataphysical Slot Machine, our community-created poetic oracle.

This unique art exhibit engages people of all ages to inquire about their future and act on it. It encourages creative exploration by combining visual arts and new technology, the ‘maker spirit’ and ‘combinatorial poetics’.

Here’s a short video of the Pataphysical Slot Machine in action.

Visitors are invited to sit on the Pataphysical throne, facing three mysterious cabinets of curiosity. You can ask Ubu, our patron saint, for “instructions from the future”: he shares surreal and whimsical words of advice (e.g.: “Embrace purple sky”), which are printed on your receipt — and spoken with a thick french accent. .

For more inspiration, guests can then open one of 20 “wonderboxes”. Each box contains a different art scene: a singing flower, an alien invader, a red devil, a happy buddha or a native shaman, for example. Some of them sparkle with lights, some speak to you, others are animated robots — and an ‘olfactory clock’ tells the time with scents of cinnamon buns or blueberry pie. 

These slides show what the art exhibit looks like. To see the many ways in which people interact with the Pataphysical Slot Machine, check our photo stream on Flickr.

The art is inspired by many world cultures, the steam-punk movement — and by Alfred Jarry, founder of ‘Pataphysics, the “science of imaginary solutions.” The technology is based on Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms, networked together — and soon to be connected to the Internet. See our interactive specs.

We are a team of artists, technologists and educators based in Mill Valley, California. Our members include Fabrice Florin (@fabriceflorin), Howard Rheingold (@hrheingold), Freddy Hahne (@arewereally), Stephanie LeveneDonald DayTim Pozar, Janey Fritsche, Mark Petrakis, Jean Bolte and many other friends, family and neighbors. Meet our crew in this ‘day in the life’ video.

We work together as a ‘peer learning network’: we teach each other what we know, across all levels of expertise. To share what we’ve learned, we maintain an extensive online documentation, and sometimes host online hangouts, to show you how to build your own interactive art — like this ‘geekout’ on motors and Arduino, held by video conference last fall.

We are preparing our first public exhibits of the Pataphysical Slot Machine later this year, in two Bay Area locations where visitors will be able to interact with Ubu and friends. Even if you can’t visit in person, we invite you to create your own interactive art, wherever you are.

Collaborative art is a wonderful thing. Join the movement and start a Pataphysical group in your neighborhood. And remember to have fun with it: ‘pataphysics is the art of not taking yourself too seriously’ :)

Fire in the hole!

Video, photos and narration by Fabrice Florin. Recorded at the Rheingold Room in Mill Valley, California, in February 2014. Music by Erik Satie and others.

A ‘Pataphysical Poem


Docteur Canard, our youngest pataphysicist, is now a regular contributor to our art club, where she is creating an interactive skull with X-ray vision. As a gift for for Docteur Fabio’s 60th birthday, she wrote this poem about why she keeps coming back. We’re so glad she’s part of our society, and thank her for inspiring us with her fresh perspective on our madcap adventure.


The Pataphysical Slot Machine

As you enter, gods and demons stare down at you.

Pataphysicists are the makers of dreams, and the future rests in their hands.

Golden question marks show the end of the unknown question.

Purple coats flash past.

The  Pataphysical Slot Machine is a place of art, laughter and imagination.

Singing flowers, the Devil, a skull with flashing eyes, the hand with the All Seeing Eye.

Always in the process, never done.

Pearl and Lulu.

Two yipping, barking explosions of joy and energy, both worth twice as much as 1,000 pearls.


You can be anything you want to be, do anything you want to do, nothing is impossible here.

What do you want to know? UBU can see your future, and he will tell you.

Hidden away, a small miracle in the vast and troubled earth, a place of gods.

This is Really and Truly the most Fabulous place in the world, where Figurines come alive and Canards call from every corner. A place filled with Pizzazz, where the Day never ends, and Tout d’ Suite the Rind of your Brain is being Flashed with ideas you once thought impossible.

The science and art of imaginary solutions.


Written for Dr. Fabio by Dr. Canard


Why, thank you kindly, Dr. Canard! We too enjoy our time together in this ‘place of gods’. We look forward to many more creative explorations with you :)