A new one-off piece from Paul Spooner
Height 35 cm
‘Only a fool would try to make a mechanical toy without good reason. I tried, but after a promising start, a sense of purpose began to seep into this hitherto meaningless enterprise.
Finding a wooden box on my bench, I thoughtlessly decided to turn it into a little room. I made three chairs, two urns, a stove, a clock, a teapot, a bearskin rug, a candelabra and a girl in a leather dress. And a beach ball. I drew a repeating cuckoo pattern on a piece of paper and used it to paste over the side and back walls of the room, put the items inside and screwed a piece of clear plastic over the open side to stop the stuff falling out. I was aware that someone might see meaning and purpose here but at this stage I was unable to make that cognitive leap myself. It was just fun to turn the room round and watch the girl and her furniture settling into awkward arrangements as they slumped around in the box. To make it easier to turn, I fixed a shaft at the back and used a geneva mechanism to rotate it by means of a crank handle. I added a pair of shutters so that the churning action was hidden until the box was at rest.
Then, insidiously, thoughts entered my mind; thoughts that there might be some subconscious plan to all this. The cuckoo wallpaper, the deranged furniture; it might be a metaphor. The urns, the clock, the bearskin rug; could there be some message to unravel?
The life cycle of the Cuckoo, which intersects parasitically with the life cycles of its hosts, is often used as a metaphor for the kind of person who makes himself at home in someone else’s home, ruining everything for the legitimate householders. To further this inkling of a meaning and having decided to leave the pursuit of meaninglessness to one side, I made an extra pair of cuckoos and attached them to the upper part of the machine.
The Tumbling Room; a tiny version of the World Turned Upside Down*, might stand for the condition of many parts of the world as it is today.
The Urns: receptacles that honour the dead.
A Clock: an instrument for measuring out our dwindling supply of time. A stopped clock; signifying the suspension of progress.
Three Chairs: Whose bottom belongs on which chair? This is an ancient question of social positioning. And Three: the number of edges and vertices of a triangle, a side view of a pyramid; a diagram of hierarchy.
The Bearskin Rug; a hunter’s trophy. An enemy laid low.
A Teapot; speaks of hospitality as does the Stove- but they’re all jumbled up. This could represent the upending of normal decencies.
The Candelabra; Illuminates the scene but in three of its possible positions it’s misplaced.
The Girl; embodies a mass of connotations. A person whose identity, like everyone else’s, deserves to be taken at her own reckoning, not compressed within someone else’s.
The Beach Ball; I’m still working on that.
Apart from that, a clear interpretation was unavoidable; the new machine was telling me of the overrunning of Afghanistan by religious fanatics.
* A song from the time of the English Civil War protesting at Parliament’s abolition of Christmas celebrations. They also banned football. I’m pretty sure the Taliban have banned beach volleyball, especially for women.’