‘mechanical jokes for people with short attention spans’.
Paul Spooner has lived in Cornwall for the last 35 years, most of them spent making mechanical tableaux.
Always of a mechanical bent, he was lucky to fetch up in Stithians, near Falmouth, just as Sue Jackson was starting to turn her craft shop “Cabaret” into a place where people could buy, sell or look at mechanical toys.
Around 1980 he installed the coin-operated “Last Judgement” in Cabaret’s window in Falmouth High Street. In the form of a life-sized skeleton, it contained small animated figures representing the damned, the righteous, and the workers (little devils who had their own area for rest and relaxation with a cafe and snooker table).
After Cabaret’s move to Covent Garden in 1985, Paul continued to make small machines but also collaborated with other makers to produce the wildly ambitious “Ride of Life”, a kind of theme park ride in which visitors travelled on self-propelled sofas to witness animated scenes of everyday life. Other large commissions for Museums and Galleries followed, including the “Plant Takeaway” exhibit, made with Will Jackson and Patrick Bond which is still entertaining visitors to the Eden Project with its family themes of nakedness and death.
These and many other enterprises, which include a brush with the world of luxury goods and the invention of the sex-change machine, have formed the basis of his work.
His television programme, Mechanisms was broadcast by Channel 4 in 1995. He has produced two card cutout books; Spooner’s Moving Animals and The Museum of the Mind, as well as the children’s book, Red Roger.
“My work as an artist/mechanic amounts to a constant pursuit of elegance and simplicity. I haven’t caught up with either yet because I don’t know how to finish things. Except sometimes. And even then I’m not sure.”