Final Project: Rube Goldberg system


For this project, we were required to make a Rube Goldberg system based off the most significant scene in a narrative that we picked. I selected The Picture of Dorian Gray, a classic by Oscar Wilde.

The Story of Dorian Gray:

It is a story where a painter painted a portrait of the beautiful Dorian Gray, who later meets an aristocrat with a hedonistic worldview. He declares that beauty is everything in this world, yet is not immortal. Dorian Gray truly admired this perspective, and sought to sell his soul to the devil. In exchange, he would be able to commit any sin for eons without his appearance changing at all. Instead, the portrait which he keeps locked up in his own privacy will age and fade in his stead. After committing a lot of sins, Dorian Gray decided to repent and do charity in an effort to make the portrait revert some of its ugliness. However, the portrait only becomes uglier and it is at this where Dorian realizes that wanting to make up for his sins was another way of his vanity and curiosity. In order to end things, he decided to stab the portrait once and for all. In the end, the portrait transfers its age and ugliness onto the real Dorian Gray, while reverting back to its previous, flawless beauty. Dorian Gray then dies on the spot.

Rube Goldberg System Video:

There are two sides of this project, separated by the Acrylic piece. The first side represents the Portrait, while the second side represents Dorian Gray.

The Portrait Side:

The Portrait is represented by the white marble. It is white because it was still pure and beautiful until tainted by Dorian Gray.

First, the structure starts off with books. Leather-bound, but faded. Books portraying good qualities too (Diligence). This represents the aristocrat Dorian once was, which was also expressed in the painting. It is faded and tattered, because it is already beginning to be tainted by Dorian’s sins (reflected on the portrait as a result).

Next, the foam stairs. It is the descending of the portrait into ugliness and sin, based on what Dorian has done. The material Foam in a sense is tough yet malleable at the same time, which shows that it can be molded and shifted based on the amount of force exerted, in this case Dorian’s sins. Hence, it ‘melts’ or ‘sinks’ lower and lower. Each “step” is a representation of each major sin committed by Dorian; selling his soul to the devil, hurting people and finally, committing and triggering multiple murders and deaths.

The cup represents how the portrait is overloading with sin and ugliness. It spills over, unable to withstand the quantity of the sins. This is also when Dorian Gray wants to end everything soon.

Then, the Wood Trial. Wood has multiple meanings to it. According to the Bible, one of the first times we see wood is when man is committing sin and making all people born sinners. Then, we see wood being used to save man in the Great Flood. The Ark of the Covenant was also made in the desert as Moses was instructed. In it was the law. The Law brought death, serving and acting as the Ministry of Death.

The Ark of the Covenant contained the Law and Jesus contained the effects of the law when he was crucified as us for our sins.

On other words, wood represents salvation, and the humanity of Jesus. God in His infinite wisdom and use of irony has turned bad into good.

In other words, the wood represents Law, Justice and Karma crashing down on Dorian Gray. It is the “Gates of Justice”, where the portrait, acting as the punisher, reforms Dorian and punishes him for the sins he has committed. This setup ends in a black test-tube, representing that it has now turned ugly in a sense because it punished Dorian.

The Dorian Gray Side:

Dorian Gray is represented by the black marble. He may have stayed beautiful, but innately, he is ugly and warped.

This starts off with a long winding trail of aluminium path. The path is unobstructed because Dorian Gray never suffered the consequences of his actions. It is all reflected on the portrait instead. hence, it is shiny and silver-clean. However, it is crumpled. The wrinkles represent the stains on Dorian’s personality. Even though his outer appearance remains beautiful (credit to the portrait), his personality gets more and more warped, something the portrait cannot salvage. Hence, the wrinkles represents Dorian’s innate ugliness while the clean silver represents his beautiful outer appearance.

The comb is representative of Dorian’s Seduction. He uses this Charisma to get away with all his crimes by seducing people to believe in him.

Then, we have a toilet roll. Toilets are usually associated with uncleanliness i.e. you would not go there to eat if you could choose to. A toilet roll is also something that is usually discarded, hence being a waste material. This represents how dirty Dorian becomes due to his sins.

Finally, Dorian wants to end it all. He stabs the portrait, signified by the knife being plunged into the picture of the portrait. It is to be noted that this happens at the same level as the Portrait’s Judgement i.e. Judgement by Wood (on the other side). Judgement is delivered as Dorian stabs the portrait. Same as the portrait’s marble, this marble undergoes the same twirling effect down into a test-tube. However, this time, the test-tube is white, signifying that he is now the victim.

By both the portrait and Dorian gray’s marbles undergoing the same twirling effect in the end, it is representative of how they have exchanged places. The opposite colours of black and white interchanging (marbles into test-tubes) also reinforces how the portrait and Dorian gray have now traded places.

It is also to note that both marbles end up in a test-tube each. This is to sum up the entire experiment, highlighting how in the end, Dorian’s life was simply an experiment he has orchestrated himself in order to explore how far human limits can go (inspired by the decadent French novel À rebours, by utilizing the portrait.