Cabaret Mechanical Theatre want you to push their buttons in Automata at the Allen Gallery

By Culture24 Reporter | 02 November 2011
A photo of a small wooden model of a woman lying naked on a bed
© Cabaret Mechanical Theatre
Exhibition: Automata, Allen Gallery, Alton, November 5 – December 23 2011

In 1979, Sue Jackson started a tiny craftshop in the Cornish tourist heartland of Falmouth under the auspices of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre.

With the help of fellow local artists Peter Markey and Paul Spooner, her technological tardis started to specialise in handmade automata, and five years later the group had achieved enough success to move to London, where they remained until rising rents forced them to close their permanent home and turn into a touring enterprise in 2000.

Jackson's daughter, Sarah, runs the rule these days, and their profile has continued to expand, developing education projects in schools, museums and science centres as exotic and widespread as the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

So their roster of 20 interactive machines here – springing into life when you poke their buttons – are worth a fiddle: gears and cogs power up matchstick-nibbling men, shoot horns out of suddenly animated heads and send rows of dancing ladies on can-can demonstrations, and that’s all before you've moved on to an ancient Egyptian swatting a fly and an Olympia who, apparently, "undulates seductively".

Eight artist-engineers are at play, having already toured to Australia, Bangkok, Seoul, Tokyo and the US.

  • Open 10am-4.30pm Tuesday-Saturday. Admission free.

More pictures from the show:

A photo of two small mechanical models of a cartoon man and woman singing
Guitar and Dancer
© Cabaret Mechanical Theatre
A photo of two small mechanical heads coming out of a block of wood
Body Language
© Cabaret Mechanical Theatre
A photo of a mechanical wooden model of a horse-like creature at a writing desk
Sausage Drawer
© Cabaret Mechanical Theatre
A photo of a small wooden mechanical head coming out of a box
Nibbling Matchsticks
© Cabaret Mechanical Theatre
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