Paul Rucker has spent the last four months in a dark room at McLeod Residence. Showing in January was his installation called Eleven Conversations, in which a video of him performing a musical number on the cello was manipulatable by visitors who could control the sound—and, it appeared, his movements on the video—by waving hands over a glowing orange sensor in the middle of the room.


Now comes Happy Ending Machine, a sweet-hearted, playful, interactive piece that drew a huge crowd at the opening. People still call ahead when they're coming to the gallery to make sure it's on when they get there (it is). It pairs footage borrowed from a Louisiana butterfly enthusiast with a clear Plexiglas console that Rucker built.



Four red lasers shoot out from inside the console. Each one corresponds to an instrument, or a group of instruments, and the four tracks are synced up in a single recording by Rucker and a saxophonist. Running a hand across one of the lasers turns the track on; running a hand the other direction turns the track off.

Smoke pumped into the machine has the same effect. It blocks the laser, which plays a track continuously. In fact, during this podcast, the saxophone, under the influence of excess smoke and a laser weakened with time, absolutely will not quit. Then the drums refuse to stop. The machine takes over. (The laser has since been fixed.)

Rucker, a self-taught musician and a trained composer, talks about his early days in Seattle almost a decade ago, when he stopped playing music for a while and worked as a janitor at the Seattle Art Museum. That's where he first got interested in combining music and visual art. In the last three years, he's shown at Consolidated Works and the McLeod Residence, and he's building a piece for a show next month at Jack Straw, in addition to working as a professional composer, in the multimedia department at SAM, and keeping up with his solo writing and performing career.

Sure he's busy, but what will this room at McLeod Residence do without him?