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Exploratorium
November 22, 2016

On Exhibit at the Exploratorium: Curious Contraptions

The Curious Contraptions exhibit has ended. Please visit The Exploratorium for current exhibitions.


Opening Nov. 17 at The Exploratorium is Curious Contraptions: Featuring Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, an exhibition of more than 20 charming and often hilarious sculptures known as automata.

Like complex mechanical toys, these whimsical machines are brought to life by intricate arrangements of handmade cams, cranks, and other simple mechanisms. Each sculpture performs an absurd miniature drama, often reflecting 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.

In addition to the collection of sculptures, the show will feature the sketches of automata artist Paul Spooner, as well as interactive exhibits that help visitors understand how cranks, cams, and levers­—the building blocks of automata movement—work. The Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio will offer cardboard automata workshops, helping visitors to create their own mechanical sculptures from this simple material.

The Exploratorium also commissioned a new piece, entitled “Dieselpunk Pegasus,” from artist Keith Newstead. The 18-inch wood and metal automaton presents a graceful, galloping winged horse that looks as if it was assembled from surplus World War II machinery.

Additional exhibits for Curious Contraptions are on loan from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre and Science Projects, London, and selected artists include Carlos Zapata, Peter Markey, Patrick Bond, Lucy Casson, Michael Fong, Ron Fuller, Arthur Ganson, Kazuaki Harada, Paul Long, and Matt Smith.

Curious Contraptions is on view from Nov. 17 through Jan. 29, and is included with the museum's general admission. Tickets can be purchased online or on-site.

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