The AutomataCon is a convention for automata enthusiasts held at the wonderful Morris Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate. In addition to the modestly-sized AutomataCon gathering there was also an outstanding exhibition of contemporary kinetic art alongside the museum’s impressive permanent collection of mechanical music and historical automata. So, a lot of mechanical moving marvels to behold!
While the Suitcase of Wonders is primarily a venue for the presentation of live magic (by Smallini, the World’s Tiniest Magician), I have long been interested in automata in playing a role in both the illusions themselves (as evidenced by the recent “Ask Abe” effect), as well as serving as interstitial entertainment between acts. My limited efforts in this vein include music boxes and vintage wind-up toys playing in front of the curtain. However, I am now looking to incorporate a fully automated device (battery-operated servo, etc.) that can play for a minute or two on its own while I set up the next illusion.
In addition to a self-playing automata, which would either be prohibitively expensive to procure or beyond my current capabilities to make at this time, I have been looking at the idea of automated image projections of some sort - a miniature film projector, so to speak. This idea has led me to the acquiring of a Tiny TV (its own diary entry forthcoming), and now, a mechanical flipbook, fine examples of which I saw at the AutomataCon by Marvel & Rosen, LLC.
Like toy theater and puppetry, I consider automata to be an artistic cousin of the Suitcase of Wonders, and I will continue to explore its possibilities to enhance my performances.