“YO DUDE! REMEMBER—ONLY ONE EARTH!” William T. Wiley’s kinetic sculpture transforms a Cold War–era game into a dire warning on climate change, inflected with political commentary and the artist’s signature wit and sense of the absurd. Punball: Only One Earth is a fully functioning pinball machine, restored from a vintage Gottleib North Star game. Wiley replaces the machine’s original graphics—which celebrated the 1958 undersea crossing of the North Pole by the nuclear-powered USS Nautilus—and its nuclear optimism with puns and recurring imagery, symbols, and characters from his personal vocabulary. Appearing throughout the playfield and cabinet artwork is Buster Time, a winged hourglass. As we rack up points against the machine’s colorful landscape, we are reminded time and again that the eye scabs are melting. Are you keeping time?
Punball: Only One Earth, 2008; rebuilt and restored pinball machine with original artwork; courtesy of the collection of Laura Smith Sweeney and Joe Sweeney
Over a celebrated career spanning six decades, Bay Area artist William T. Wiley’s eclectic practice encompassed almost every conceivable medium, pursuing inquiries on art, politics, war, global warming, foolishness, ambition, hypocrisy, and irony. Since his earliest exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1960, his works have been widely exhibited and collected by museums throughout the United States and Europe.