A visit to the Curious Contraptions exhibit at the Exploratorium, featuring 20 charming and often hilarious mechanical sculptures known as automata. Their whimsical characters are brought to life by intricate arrangements of cams, cranks, and other simple mechanisms.
Each sculpture performs an absurd miniature drama that often reflects its maker’s dark and very British sense of humor. Exposed inner workings encourage visitors to investigate the low-tech mechanisms used to make these automata move. Additional exhibits offer a closer look at the most common simple mechanisms.
Most of the automata on display are on loan from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, British advocates of this peculiar art form for more than 30 years. Featured artists include Paul Spooner, Keith Newstead, Carlos Zapata, Peter Markey, Patrick Bond, Lucy Casson, Michael Fong, Ron Fuller, Arthur Ganson, Mark Galt, Kazuaki Harada, Paul Long, Bernie Lubell, Matt Smith, and Norman Tuck. The exhibition also features sketches from the notebooks of leading automata artist Paul Spooner.
A dozen of us at Pataphysical Studios went on this expedition on a bright Saturday morning, on January 28, 2017. Participants included Drs. Canard, DNA, Fabio, Figurine, Heatshrink, Igor, Mind Toast, Rub, Donald, along with friends and family. As we ramp up character development for our Robot World and Time Machine projects, we can learn a thing or two from these ingenious creations and the brilliant artists behind them.
Vive les automates!
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