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Image by fabola
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!
Watch our video of the Curious Contraptions exhibit:
View more photos of the Curious Contraptions exhibit:
Learn more about the Curious Contraptions exhibit:
See also my related photos of the Perpetual Motion exhibit:
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Learn more about Pataphysical Studios:
Making Club at Tam Makers
Image by fabola
Come make your own art, tech or woodworking project at Tam Makers!
Every week, we host a ‘Maker Club’, an open workshop for adults and teens in our makerspace at Tam High School. Club members like to ‘show and tell’ their latest projects, and bring their own materials to build new projects, with guidance from our staff and other community members.
Many of our members are experienced makers, who are happy to share what they know. Some of the cool maker projects we have built in our makerspace include a graceful robot spider, an eagle god with creepy eyes, an Arduino-powered garage opener, a Wifi server on a chip, and more.
If you are interested in creating your own maker project with the help of others, join our Maker Clubs!
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Animating Ubu’s Dreams
Image by fabola
Our new associate Edward Janne is helping us create new ways to animate scenes for ‘Ubu’s Dreams’, the shadow puppet show which Mark Petrakis and I are developing.
We’re experimenting with spotlights and other forms of automation to bring some of these figures to life. Edward wrote an iPad app to add a spotlight over a video, using Apple TV.
He is also designing animation stand that could by make characters move with small motors. The stand can make the figures slide up and down when the stand is vertical, go back and forth when it’s on its side, and rotate when laying flat.
Ubu’s Dreams stars Père Ubu, the hero of french poet Alfred Jarry’s surreal plays. In this show, Ubu is constantly dreaming, playing with archetypal characters from our collective unconscious.
For this project, we are creating a variety of wooden figures with a laser cutter: big faces, music notes, dancers, trees and graveyards, to name but a few.
The show takes place inside a magic theater I custom built for this project, using poplar wood for the rolling cart and PVC for the theater framework. During the show, we will play a pre-recorded soundtrack with dialog, music and SFX, while we perform live with the puppets.
We will perform our first puppet show during our Dada exhibit at the Canessa Gallery in North Beach, from Nov. 3 to 12, 2016.
From shadow puppets to poetic robots, these interactive storytelling experiments have the potential to engage us at a deeper level and help us learn more about ourselves.
View more pictures of this Magic Theater project on Flickr:
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Learn more about the Magic Theater project (originally called Théâtre Mécanique):