Automata is a brilliant little exhibition in one of Liverpool’s lesser known retail gems, featuring work from Simon Venus and Tristan Brady Jacobs. The clue is in the name here, they’re all automata; moving devices made by human hands. Sounds more complicated than it is, right?
It’s a really lovable exhibition with really lovable objects. Beautifully crafted and wonderfully witty, these kinetic sculptures open up a sense of childish intuitiveness in whoever gathers up the courage to play with them. And I do mean play, as they are toys. They’re very sophisticated toys and they all work as artworks in their own right, beyond being simple decorative objects. And on top of that, they are all individually designed pieces that demonstrate a confident understanding of mechanics.
Simon Venus’ main contribution to the show is an intricate, multi-level, paper puppet theatre that draws inspiration from Victorian imagery and places it in an ingenious wooden diorama. What I found fascinating here though was the intimacy with which Venus works. These are not simply his work, but his hobby, and his life. The work is part of his own traditions.
Each Christmas, Venus creates bespoke and unique pieces as gifts for friends and family. They mean something to him, and to those close to him, which actually helps the casual viewer relate to them further as intimate objects. It gives them a story, rather than a goal. And if you can’t tell which is art and which is a gift, just take a look at the price tags. Venus’ work is mostly not for sale in this show, making each piece to suit an individual, rather than making it for the sake of selling it. They truly mean something to him – so if you want one, you’re going to have to seek it out.
Tristan Brady-Jacobs’ work has an even more charming feel to it. It is reminiscent of adolescent experiments in the wood-shop, and it feels almost like a ready prepared sentiment in that sense. It’s something that could be applied to almost any narrative. His work puts the mechanics on display and a smile on your face.
More importantly though, is The Hobo Kiosk itself. It’s dedication to interesting stuff, and its determination to keep being exciting and continue intriguing us. Tristan and Delia Brady-Jacobs have a passion for it that shows, and produces consistently fascinating exhibitions that just wouldn’t be presented in the same way anywhere else. Automata is just one of many wonderful collections on display in the shop, as well as the enticing sales objects dotted around. This shop is a perfect example of independent Liverpool not getting too wrapped up in pleasing everyone. And in doing so, they probably get pretty damn close.