• Austria's news in English

Austria's museum for useless inventions

The Local/AFP · 14 Aug 2015, 15:38

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Verdict on swimming pool rape case overturned
The Theresienbad swimming pool in Vienna. Photo: Wikimedia

An Iraqi refugee who was jailed after claiming it was a sexual emergency when he raped a boy in a swimming pool has had the sentence overturned.

Vienna Comic Con promises to be 'bigger and more galactic'
Cosplay star Yaya Han. Copyright: Yaya Han/Bryan Humphrey

Comic Con returns to the Austrian capital on November 19th-20th at the Messe Wien.

Three refugees arrested on drugs charges
Cannabis plants. Photo: J. Patrick Bedell/Wikimedia

A gang of three Afghani drug dealers has been busted in Vienna.

Hungarian woman crushed by snowcat piste machine
Snowcat machine. Photo: Melensdad/Wikimedia

A young Hungarian woman has died after being crushed by a snowcat piste machine on the Dobratsch mountain in Carinthia.

Austrian policeman sentenced over 'Heil Hitler' salute
Photo: Flickr

A policeman in Austria was sentenced on Thursday for shouting "Heil Hitler" at a driver during a traffic check at the Hungarian border in April.

Scary clown craze endangers crucial work of clown 'doctors'
Photo: Bojan Tavcar

Within the last couple weeks, disturbing events involving masked individuals has caught public attention in Austria.

Chimney sweep rescues lost mushroom picker
Photo: James Lindsey/Wikimedia

A 76-year-old Austrian man who went out mushroom picking almost froze to death after getting lost and spending the night in the forest.

Refugees sold into forced prostitution
File photo: UNHCR

Female refugees are being sold into forced prostitution in Austria, a police investigation into human trafficking has found.

Driverless bus takes a spin around Salzburg's old town
The Arma driverless shuttle bus. Photo: Navya

A driverless minibus has made a test journey in the city of Salzburg.

No jail time for asylum seeker who dumped baby in road
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

A man who grabbed his own child and dumped her in the middle of a busy road has been given a nine-month suspended sentence.

12 brilliant German words you won't find in English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Five films which will change your mind about Austrian cinema
Those surprising Austrians!
100 years since the last emperor's death
Afghani family's new home in Austria
Der you learn Deutsch?
Delighted by the light
Beware these passport scams
Of course we skipped Oarsch
Foodies rejoice at the choice!
Travel & Tourism
10 years after her escape from captivity
Surviving the Brexit for British expats
Day 2 of the World Bodypainting Festival 2016
Is Islam hostile to Western society?
Bodypainting festival in southern Austria
Europe's ice cream capital
Best Austrian beauty spots
Travel & Tourism
Three days in Vienna as a tourist
How to make friends in Austria
jobs available