Last week I went to visit the ‘Marvellous Machines’ exhibition currently showing at the Ipswich Art Gallery. It is a fascinating, stylish display of visually elegant and appealing mechanical artworks.
And, what’s more you get to push small, red buttons to make the automata work in all their whirring and squeaky intricacy.
In these digital times it’s easy to take for granted all our speedy, convenient tech. We click and scroll without a second thought as to what is actually going on beneath the screen.
It wasn’t always so and the ‘Marvellous Machines’ exhibition reminds us of all those bewitching clockwork and mechanical objects from the past. Some examples such as mechanical toys were purely for entertainment and some were functional equipment that was often beautiful too.
Functional objects from the past on display in this exhibition included a braille typewriter, a rather attractive ‘shrimp’ sweet making machine
and a scale model of the an early Otis lift.
Of course, humans have used mechanisms to make moving toys for thousands of years.
Naturally, in an Art Gallery some of the works on display are examples of art. These delightful mechanical sculptures by Paul Spooner are exquisitely crafted, and are both beguiling and witty.
I particularly liked the manner in which the mechanics are also on display in this piece. It has become an expression of our contemporary culture to reveal inner workings. Here you can see the cogs and spindles are finely made and are assembled in a functional and satisfyingly ordered arrangement.
Another work by Peter Markey, Artist-Painter, resonated surprisingly strongly with me. It’s as if he has been spying on me!
‘Marvellous Machines’ featuring these quirky pieces from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, continues at Ipswich Art Gallery until 3 November 2019. If you can’t get to Ipswich a list of upcoming events displaying some of these mechanical sculptures is available on the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre website. Finally, Cabaret Mechanical Theatre sell some of their work online offering one-offs, limited editions and even ‘build your own’ kits.
19 thoughts on “Remembering the Joy of the Mechanical in the Digital Age.”
I am really jealous, I would love that exhibition, thanks so much for taking us round.
You’re welcome. At least with a mobile phone it’s easy to video kinetic art these days.
Oh, I do love me a cheery automaton! I’d love this exhibition, both the new and the old. Thanks for the videos.
Yes, I was struggling with filming on my phone and pushing the red buttons at the same time. Luckily another visitor, came over and kindly volunteered to hold the buttons for me.
Hooray for techie help!
Takes me back to 1978 when I visited the USSR and was required to spend hard currency on “something”. I loved the wooden carvings that did things when rotated by the wrist, via a round wooden ball attached to strings. The one I bought was a group of bears playing the drums.
You know somewhere in my house is a hedgehog that moves when you pull the string, but I couldn’t find it. I hope you’ve still got your drumming bears.
No sadly, I can’t account for where the bears went. I have one plaque made with straw inlay, and two fabulous pieces of carved timber from (Communist) Poland, all three pieces still with their original price tag on the back, and that’s it from those days. I used to have a miniature samovar which was given to me on my 23rd birthday in Moscow, but that also has gone. I just remembered I also still have a couple of Soviet badges, one from Leningrad.
I used to joke you got a medal in USSR for crossing the street safely. You had to understand the context – there was almost no traffic in 1978.
Sometimes we pass on our souvenirs and forget who we gave them too. I don’t know about you, but with my last move I have started seriously reviewing all my stuff, aka clutter, and have started making trips to the charity shops and local recycling centre.
De-Cluttering. The topic keeps coming back in to my life. Over and over. I’ve been tempted to write a blog post on the subject, but don’t want to come across all preachy. On the other hand, perhaps the universe is telling me something : -) PLUS I haven’t written a post for months now, not for want of material.
I would have loved to see this. I recently inherited my mother’s 1950 Royal manual typewriter – the one I learned to type on and that I used in college – and I am so happy to have it. I was fascinated by it as a child, the minute I saw it, because it was clear how it worked, and to think it’s still doing its job as well as ever so many years later makes me happy. Plus it needs no fuel except the energy of my fingers!
Oh my goodness. I learnt on a manual typewriter and you had to properly strike the keys didn’t you? I remember moving to an IBM Golfball machine and you had to have such a light touch. I still prefer typing with a keyboard as opposed to typing on a screen though.
Yes, me too. Though I realize I’ve gotten to be a lazy typist once I tried the manual typewriter again. Typing well is a skill on those machines all right.
I would have loved to have visited this exhibition. It looks like fun. A local company produces things just like these – Machinations.
Yes, it was a fascinating display. Always good to see people making high quality pieces.
Fun exhibit! Thanks for bringing it to life with the videos.
Videoing – the upside of a mobile phone.
Thanks for sharing this amazing ingenuity from the past through this exhibition Agnes.
Thank you – I think the shrimp sweet making machine is both functional and surprisingly attractive.