Saturday, September 22, 2007

Featured Artist: Pierre Mayer

One of my favorite fellow automata makers is Pierre Mayer. Like me, he has made contemporary automata that perform and/or depict magicians and magic tricks.

Making an original contemporary automaton function is a challenge in itself. Making the automaton perform a trick that is actually somewhat deceptive or mysterious is a HUGE challenge. This is where Pierre Mayer's work stands out.

In this piece, the sequence starts with a small orange tree. The tree then blossoms, and bears fruit. Next an orange opens at the top of the tree and two butterflies fly out holding a silk handkerchief.

There is a long tradition of automata depicting magic tricks. The famous magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin started his career as a watchmaker -- a skill that served him well in his next occupation as a magician and automaton-maker. He created the original orange tree piece that inspired Mayer's contemporary version.

The piece shown in the recent movie The Illusionist with Ed Norton borrowed from Robert-Houdin's piece, but showed the tree itself growing. Robert-Houdin's did not actually do that.

Check out Cabaret Mechanical Theatre's page on Pierre Mayer's Orange Tree Automaton

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