• 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
Life sentence for killer driver judged to be sane
Screen grab of the car in Herrengasse. Photo: ORF

A jury in the Austrian city of Graz has found a man guilty of killing three people in the southern city last year by driving his 4x4 at high speed down a crowded pedestrian street.

Rare panda twins getting more active every day
The twins are a boy and a girl. Photo: Schönbrunn Zoo

The unique panda twins that were born two months in Vienna are developing well and growing up fast according to zookeepers.

High altitude ski resorts get less snowfall
St. Anton ski resort. Photo: 24seven/Wikimedia

Spring skiing in Austrian resorts like St. Anton or Ischgl could become a thing of the past if a long-term trend discovered by Swiss researchers continues.

Stuntman's clutch fails after driving at 300 km/h
Felix Baumgartner. Photo: Red Bull Stratos

Skydiver Felix Baumgartner has been criticised after boasting about how the clutch on his Ford GT sports car failed after he drove it for several hours at speeds of up to 300 km/per hour.

Austrian men tend to be 'critical of working mothers'
Attitudes are less conservative than in the 1950s. Photo: German Bundesarchiv

42 percent of under 45-year-olds in Austria are critical of mothers with small children who have a job, and believe “a preschooler suffers if his or her mother works”.

Paid social work 'should help asylum seekers integrate'
Refugees arriving on boats in the Mediterranean. UNHCR/Archilleas Zavallis

Refugee experts from Austria’s nine states are meeting in Graz today, to discuss how to provide asylum seekers with employment and opportunities for integration through community work.

Man hit by tram during fight between Chechens and Turks
Photo: Wiener Linien/Zinner

A man was seriously injured after being hit by a tram during a mass brawl between a group of Chechens and Turks in Vienna.

Neo-Nazi crimes on the rise in Austria
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

Neo-Nazi crimes are on the rise in Austria - particularly in the states of Tyrol and Upper Austria.

Op ed
Life as a new expat in Vienna
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

Anastasia Gromontova is a student recently arrived from Ukraine. She writes about her experience as an expat in Vienna in her first year.

Second MERS case reported in Austria
Photo: JJRON/Wikimedia

According to a report from the WHO, a second case of the Middle-East respiratory syndrome coronavirus infection (MERS-CoV) has now been reported in Austria.

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Those surprising Austrians!
National
100 years since the last emperor's death
National
Afghani family's new home in Austria
Lifestyle
Have fun in September!
National
Der you learn Deutsch?
Culture
Delighted by the light
National
Beware these passport scams
National
Of course we skipped Oarsch
National
Foodies rejoice at the choice!
Travel & Tourism
Yodel-ei-ei-eee--oh
Lifestyle
10 years after her escape from captivity
Politics
Surviving the Brexit for British expats
National
Another 10 million Euros for fresh elections
Gallery
Day 2 of the World Bodypainting Festival 2016
Society
Is Islam hostile to Western society?
Gallery
Bodypainting festival in southern Austria
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
2,471
jobs available