Saturday, January 19, 2013

Room for Wonder - A film about the magical collections of Richard Garriott

This short film features the many collections of Richard Garriott de Cayeux -- video game developer, entrepreneur, and space traveler. Garriott built Britannia Manor to serve as his observatory, home, and occasionally, a giant interactive haunted house. An avid collector of amazing and unusual objects, Garriott's home could fairly be classified as a museum. In this film, magician Brad Henderson from Austin, Texas takes you through this extraordinary collection, room by room.

Among the countless wonders and secret passages, you will find a collection of historic space-related artifacts in Garriott's office, complete with one of the original Sputnik satellites. In the dungeon, you can stare in awe at the shrunken heads and vampire hunting kits. In the laboratory, you will find esoteric scientific instruments and orreries, mechanical models of the planets moving around the sun.

I know you guys will be most interested in Garriott's automata collection, featuring antiques as well works by almost all of the modern makers. The automata collection, vast as it is, can only be covered in part, but you do get to see the works of three artists who surely deserve the limelight.

First, you see Paul Spooner's inimitable wit and ingenuity play out in his Sex Change Machine and Poisoned Milk automaton. The mechanism that makes the cat's tongue seem to lap up the spilled milk is a fine example of Spooner's cleverness.

Next, you get a close-up view of the Argentinian artist Pablo Lavezzari's piece Facing a Fake Foe -- a detailed automaton-within-an-automaton depicting a knight fighting a dragon. The dragon, as it turns out, is a fake controlled by a small demon figure. The piece is also notable for its mechanically produced dragon roar sound effect.

Finally, you are shown a few of the macabre and magical automata created by Thomas Kuntz. Kuntz hand sculpts each of the figures and scratch builds the all of the mechanical elements for his pieces, often on vintage watchmaker's lathes. His autoamta seem to be the direct descendants of the most exquisite automata of centuries past. His piece titled L'Oracle du Mort is a modern masterpiece, featuring an oracle who -- with the help of two imps, the Grim Reaper, and a burst of real flame -- will answer your questions.

Amidst so many incredible automata, and artists whom I hold in the highest esteem, I'm dazed and delighted that one of my own pieces made it into the footage. A Dug North original, titled The Birthing Engine is shown and mentioned early on. I couldn't be more pleased.

This film is rare look at one of the finest collections of contemporary automata in existence. I am glad it was made and I am glad to have had the chance to share it with you.

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Blogger Plague said...

That is just amazing.
I'm overcome with envy.

January 19, 2013 at 2:39 PM  
Anonymous Fred said...

This video made me realize something: Thanks entirely to reading your blog for a couple of years, I’m now able to instantly recognize the works of folks like Spooner and Kuntz, as well as your work. Thank you for the education, Dug. What an honor it must be to be included in such an incredible collection!

January 21, 2013 at 6:49 PM  
Blogger Manuel said...

An amazing collection from an amazing man

January 21, 2013 at 9:29 PM  
Blogger Dug North said...

My pleasure, Fred. It is, indeed, a great honor. I marvel at the thought time and again.

January 21, 2013 at 10:57 PM  

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