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