Get out the headphones or turn up your speakers and prepare to be impressed by archaic 19th century engineering. Relying on dozens of moving parts including gears, springs, and a bellows, this small contraption built in 1890 was designed to do one thing: perfectly mimic the random chatter of a song bird. At first I expected to hear a simple repeating pattern of tweets, but the sounds produced by the mechanism are actually quite complex and vary in pitch, tone, and even volume to create a completely realistic song. I think if you closed your eyes you might not be able to tell the difference between this and actual birdsong. It’s believed the machine was built 120 years ago in Paris by Blaise Bontems, a well-known maker of bird automata and was recently refurbished by Michael Start over at The House of Automata. Can any of you ornithologists identify the bird? If so, get in touch. (via the automata blog)
I’ve always enjoyed the work of Netherlands-based artist Levi van Veluw, and this wonderful new Automata is no exception. The piece is made almost entirely of wood and is powered by 100 gears embedded in the base. (via faith is torment)
I was unexpectedly delighted by this documentary short on jeweler, artist, and metalsmith Gary Schott who creates these small kinetic sculptures that produce tiny, intimate gestures. The attention to detail in each piece is astounding, from the early detailed sketches and balsa wood models, to the selection of materials, and even the color of fabric—all to create a tiny device, the sole purpose of which is to gently evoke a smile, to express, in the words of the artist, an action of love. The wonderfully produced video was shot and edited by husband and wife filmmakers Mark and Angela Walley of Walley Films out of San Antonio, Texas. (via junk culture)
I love that these wiry automata by Mihai Bonciu require complex components to make such simple actions. They also seem so incredibly delicate, like winding them the wrong way could cause the entire contraption to collapse. More please!
I have been walking by Christopher Furman‘s storefront gallery for several years here in Chicago where he often displays two or three of his robotic objects whirring away for passersby to enjoy. Through strange coincidence it turns out we have a mutual friend and after a quick email he pointed me to a video for his beautiful installation The Crowd. Christopher is currently working on a theater company called, yes, the Chicago Robotic Theater (!). Stay tuned for more info this summer.