e origins of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre (CMT) date back to 1979, when a handful of automaton artists (woodcarvers, mechanists, caricaturists and satirists) began to work together as an artists collective, sharing a strong appreciation for the tradition of craft and a mutual wit with regards their sense of cultural commentary. The group, founded in 1983 in Falmouth by Sue Jackson, moved to London's Covent Garden shortly thereafter, where their collection of automata immediately received both critical and popular acclaim. Through Jackson's direction, CMT quickly established itself as the first and finest collection of contemporary automata in Britain, boasting a repertoire of artists such as Peter Markey, Paul Spooner, Ron Fuller, Tim Hunkin, Lucy Casson, Andy Hazell, Jan Zalud and Keith Newstead. The cavernous venue, which provided an environment reminiscent of the old end-of-the-pier arcades, became one of London's major tourist attractions (1984-2000) and captured the charm, creativity and humour of true British ingenuity.
Kinetica, for the month of April, will be hosting Cabaret Mechanical Theatre's first-ever major retrospective show in London, which will include more than 80 automata and feature a number of previously unseen works from CMT's illustrious The Ride of Life.
The Ride of Life, developed as a satire of British culture, was a large-scale project commissioned in the late 1980's by the Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield. Designed and created by the top British automatists of the time, it was to become a huge automated theme park and ride covering a colossal 25,000 sq ft area of the shopping centre and was set to become a landmark in the history of automata. However what started as a wonderful dream in the booming 80's had a very rude awakening with the recession of the 90's and after 3 years of work, the project was suddenly axed. Stored in sheds and warehouses for the past twenty years, many of the sets were tragically destroyed through vandalism and theft. CMT have initiated the restoration of the surviving scenes with some of the artists originally involved, enabling segments of The Ride of Life and the only complete surviving scene to be shown publicly for the first time.
The exhibition will also include a special series of talks to accompany the show by the legendary founders of CMT and prominent British automata artists, as well as hands-on workshops where children and adults can learn the basic principles of creating their own automata.