The MAD Museum

29 April 2016


Richard Simmons Kitchenator1

The Kitchenator - Photo credit: Katie Wilson

The MAD Museum does what it says on the tin! The quirky attraction, located in the centre of Stratford upon Avon, houses around 60 interactive pieces of kinetic art and automata. ‘MAD’ stands for Mechanical Art and Design and as the UK’s only museum of its kind; it’s one to be seen to be believed.

First brought to life in 2012 by a local entrepreneur’s passion for mechanical art, the museum is home to many weird and wonderful machines, showcasing the curiosities of kinetic art and automata, or mechanical contraptions. The museum is now run by the entrepreneur’s family and has welcomed in more than 100,000 visitors in the past 4 years.

The hands-on hideaway combines inspirational creativity, witty design and engineering ingenuity. The pieces on display have been sourced from creators around the world, and nearly everything is interactive, meaning kids (and big kids!) can get stuck in. Visitors to the museum are encouraged to press buttons and release their inner inventor.

One of my favourite pieces on display is the ‘Musical Typewriter’, by Japanese artist Wu Xiao Fei Dyson. This giant sculpture sits quietly in the corner of the room until the user, or composer, sits down. The machine then springs into action and chimes a variety of changing sounds as the different letters of the typewriter are pressed. Each letter is attached to a fishing line that disappears quickly in a confusing collection of other fishing lines, and pressing the typewriter keys triggers a little hammer to strike objects such as empty barrels of cooking oil, jars filled with water, cans and wine bottles to create the sounds. The piece is brilliantly designed, beautiful and a lot of fun to play with!

Klatscher, or ‘Clap Hands’ as it’s nicknamed, is another surprising delight; by clapping your hands, the sculpture’s huge rubber hands above your head clap back at you. Created by artist Martin Muller, the main objective of the piece is to spark a reaction from people, and bring them pleasure.

The Kitchenator is one of the museum’s biggest and most liked exhibits, and was made by MAD’s Founder, Richard Simmons. Inspired by his artistic friends, Richard decided to try his hand at making an exhibit. The Kitchenator is a rolling ball sculpture made entirely from items you would find in your kitchen, such as pieces of cutlery, measuring jugs and rolling pins. As well as being interactive, this exhibit is universally relatable. Talking about the piece, Richard said “I wanted to make something out of everyday objects; I thought this would help to inspire people and to encourage them to try their own creations out at home.”

The design and assembly process gave Richard a true sense of how difficult, calculated and time consuming it is to engineer such a specific form of art, giving him a great deal of respect for kinetic sculptors. Not to be deterred by the project, Richard is currently planning his next machine.

As well as being highly interactive and, of course, a lot of fun, this eccentric museum appeals to those with curious and methodical brains too, allowing visitors to figure out how the gears, sprockets, robotics and eccentric paraphernalia all engage with one another at the press of a button. The MAD Museum is where art meets movement, sometimes operating to achieve a function, but most of the time just moving for the fun of it! Head over to the MAD Museum’s website to find out more.

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