Austria’s nonsense museum spreads comic relief

August 14, 2015 2:37 pm
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A suicide-selfie rifle is displayed at the 'Nonseum' museum in the Austrian village of Herrnbaumgarten, on August 12, 2015/AFP
A suicide-selfie rifle is displayed at the ‘Nonseum’ museum in the Austrian village of Herrnbaumgarten, on August 12, 2015/AFP
HERRNBAUMGARTEN, Austria, Aug 14 – From a transparent suitcase for nudists to automatic nose pickers – Austria’s museum of nonsense and its vast collection of silly yet brilliant inventions are proof that bad ideas, if carried out well, can turn into genius creations.

The so-called Nonseum – which claims to be the only one of its kind in the world – has developed a cult following among fans of the absurd.

Every year, thousands of people from around the world flock to the small village of Herrnbaumgarten, tucked away in the northern wine region close to the Czech border, to find comic relief at the Nonseum.

“We get groups from far-flung places like China and South Korea, and although I sometimes worry that the puns won’t necessarily translate into another language, they do laugh, so clearly there’s something universal about what we show,” Susanne Machac, one of the museum’s co-managers, told AFP.

Her brother-in-law, sculptor Fritz Gall, co-founded the Nonseum in 1994 with four other local artists.

They got the idea after organising the country’s first fair of failed inventions in 1984, which unexpectedly proved a huge success.

Sleepy Herrnbaumgarten, usually home to around 970 inhabitants, was suddenly overrun by 5,000 visitors from across Austria and beyond, who had all come to chuckle at the unsuccessful gimmicks.

Gall and his friends realised they had uncovered a unique market niche – coming up with seemingly pointless inventions, which manage to serve a purpose, said Machac: “Putting a smile on people’s face but also making them think for a second.”

The five artists created a not-for-profit association which would, for the next decade, organise a series of “absurd” events like a 24-hour snail race or a festival of scarecrows.

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