• Austria's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Austria's museum for useless inventions

The Local/AFP · 14 Aug 2015, 15:38

Published: 14 Aug 2015 15:38 GMT+02:00

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.

With each event, their inventory of weird inventions grew too and in the end, they decided to unite all these silly ideas under one roof.

Today, hundreds of pieces are spread across the museum's three large buildings, with new items added by the founders on a regular basis.

They include, for example, a soup plate with a plug, which allows you to discreetly drain the food when you've had enough.

"It's one of my favourite pieces. I wish I'd had one of those as a kid," said Machac.

Another highlight is "the world's one and only collection of famous button holes", concealed inside little square boxes with transparent lids.

"This is the third button hole from the top of Napoleon's military vest," explained Machac with a serious face, pointing to one of the empty boxes. "While that one was worn by Austria's foreign minister during the signing of the republic's treaty of independence (in 1955)."

There is also a rifle with its barrel twisted backwards so that the muzzle faces the shooter - the ultimate, and final, "selfie", indicates a small note next to the glass display.

But the spaghetti travel case, tricycle for twins and champagne cork retainer also hide a more serious message: they reflect a subtle critique of the modern consumer society, according to Machac.

"It's a philosophy of life: these are all things that we don't really need, but at least we're admitting that we really don't need them."

By Nina Lamparski/AFP.

For more news from Austria, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local/AFP (news.austria@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Police detonate WW2 bomb in Linz
Photo: Polizei

A 250 kilogramm bomb from World War Two was deliberately detonated on Tuesday after being discovered in Linz by two locals.

Calls to smoking helpline rocket in Austria
Photo: Ricardo Liberator/Creative Commons

New information printed on cigarette packets to deter people from smoking appears to be working in Austria.

Expats rank Austria as best country for healthcare
Wien Tourismus

Expats have ranked Austria as one of the best countries in Europe to live in according to a global survey of expat life.

Ghost of Austria's 'last monarch' still looms large
Franz Josef in 1905. Photo: Library of Congress

Even a century after his death, Austria's mutton-chop whiskered emperor Franz Joseph still looms large in the national consciousness.

'Sensational' mammoth tusks found near Vienna
Naturhistorisches Museum

Experts in Austria have excavated two giant mammoth tusks thought to be over a million years old under roadworks just north of Vienna.

Drug offences highest in Austria for a decade
LPD Wien

Austria saw a boom in drug offences last year with narcotics worth around €28 million seized by authorities.

Austrian commits robbery so he can 'start over' in prison
LPD Wien

An Austrian who robbed a fast food restaurant in Vienna told police he did it because he wanted to be jailed so he could have fresh start.

Expert predicts far-right to win Austrian election
Photo: Facebook/Norbert Hofer

Around 15% of Austrian swing voters are still undecided about who they will support in the presidential election re-run, although one expert predicts the far-right candidate will win.

Technical glitch causes chaos in Vienna airport
Photo: Twitter/Judith BK

Nearly 1,000 airline passengers were left stranded last night after a glitch in the IT system at Vienna airport caused huge delays to flights.

Cops nab accomplice in Austrian ‎€50m caper
Disgraced CEO Walter Stephan. Photo: Facebook/FACC

Police in Hong Kong have arrested an alleged accomplice who is believed to be involved in the scam which cost an Austrian aerospace company over 42 million euros.

Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Beware these passport scams
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
National
Of course we skipped Oarsch
National
Foodies rejoice at the choice!
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Travel & Tourism
Yodel-ei-ei-eee--oh
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
10 years after her escape from captivity
Politics
Surviving the Brexit for British expats
National
Another 10 million Euros for fresh elections
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Gallery
Day 2 of the World Bodypainting Festival 2016
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Society
Is Islam hostile to Western society?
Gallery
Bodypainting festival in southern Austria
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
It's gonna be hot... here's how to cope
National
Europe's ice cream capital
Travel
Best Austrian beauty spots
Travel & Tourism
Three days in Vienna as a tourist
National
How to make friends in Austria
National
Don't hesitate - break the window
Sport
Ready to watch some football? Here's how!
National
Cake rules
Politics
Austria's choice for a new president
Politics
Profile on Norbert Hofer, Freedom Party Presidential Candidate
Politics
Austrian politics explained. TL;DR: worry not.
Features
Refugees need practical help
2,536
jobs available