My kind of museum….The MAD museum

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Sometimes in life we accept the beauty of how the world works around us but we do not always appreciate it. Shakespeare’s home town Stratford – upon – Avon holds a hidden gem that would have given the man himself something to write about. The MAD museum claims host to some of the best in Steampunk , Kinetic and Automata art in the world. And art it most definitely is.

The concept of Steampunk ,  ‘a post-apocalyptic time —that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy’ fascinates me. The idea of pseudo-Victorian paraphernalia excited me greatly so I had high expectations of what I wanted to see and it didn’t take me long for my enthusiasm to kick in.

      Outside the museum stands a comically sized pair of hands. Now the best thing for me about this exhibit was that it left the guessing work to me. I clapped my hands in front of the sensor and Voila! the gears kicked into action to give me an ego boost and the giant hands clapped together leaving my expression one of great amusement. I probably looked ridiculous clapping eagerly at a machine but you don’t care. It became a recurring theme of the exhibition ; it’s like seeing a giant not-so-pocket watch blown up to epic proportions so you can see the barrel’s gear teeth gnawing against the gear train and the escapement mechanism rocking back and forth with each rotation of the centre wheel making a melodic twang as it does and you can’t help sticking your head right in because it is all just utterly beautiful.

         Before that day I had never really heard of Automata. The mad museums website,  terms it simply as interesting mechanical contraptions. They could have had me at the word ‘contraptions’ alone.


   Made from wood, brass and on old tin oil drum. My first curiosity was the mechanics. Everything from the intricate detailing of the Dutchman’s tiny hands and the peaceful timing in which the vehicle moves had a great effect on me. My fascination of machinery combined with the eccentricity of this intriguing character left my brain pleading for a narrative.

     The Flying Dutchman is cursed to sail a post apocalyptic concrete sea until he finds unconditional love.

He sails the sea for months on end desperate to find that special girl to give him a reason to keep the wheels turning and the wings moving in an empty and monotonous world.

He wants to be in love more than anything in the world and his eyes will stay glued to his binoculars looking into the outside world until he finds the right person to give his life purpose.

Perhaps he should just look in himself?

The exhibit made me question myself artistically. Does art need to have a meaning in order for it to actually be art? Or does everything simply have a meaning to someone. Many pieces in the museum had an obvious purpose whether that be to tell the time or even to count money so the reason why it was created seemed obvious rather than just being made to look interesting.

Other pieces were considerably more difficult to decipher.

    Le Mechanisms De L’argent by Pascal Bettex

   The kind of kinetic art which puts the mad into The Mad museum. French kinetic artist Bettex does not do simplistic.  His work stands out to me for its complex paths that take a lot more than a double-take to follow. The meaning may not be obvious but to me its genius.

I find it ironic in that the ambiguity of the piece it leaves your mind  to explore every possible explanation just like the freedom of the machine its own chaotic cogs and pipes.  The possibilities are endless.

 The smallest knock of a boot turns a wheel which turns a screw which turns a….and you are dizzy…. it’s certainly difficult to follow but perhaps that’s the point. Art can be chaotic and  films can be



One thought on “My kind of museum….The MAD museum

    […] Last time I visited this paradise of automata art I was a less experienced media practitioner and analyser but these were my thoughts.  […]

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