A Machine for Computing the Names of 13,500 Ventriloquist’s Dummies
March 18, 2015 by sarah
We’re delving into the archives to take a closer look at some of Paul Spooner’s automata. This piece is from 2010.
This machine is reminiscent of one of Paul’s very first machines (1969) which was an art criticism machine that he made while at art school. It is A Machine for Computing the Names of 13,500 Ventriloquists Dummies. Paul tells us more about the mechanics and history of the machine.
270w x 450h x 110d
To me, it has the same forlorn look as the famous picture of Vaucanson’s duck, taken shortly before it was lost. We don’t know much about the fate of the duck but I know that my ideas machine was taken to pieces and made into other things. It was also a lot more rubbishy than the duck.
Now I’ve made another random word machine designed to make up names for ventriloquists’ dummies. The first names are taken from a list of comedy Christian names, then there’s an initial, followed by a bisyllabic surname.
The model for this type of name is that assumed by Groucho Marx in “Duck Soup”; Rufus T Firefly.
Although Colin Pitchfork, the first person to be convicted of murder using DNA evidence and Spencer Broomhead, a man once to be found in the Seven Stars pub in Stithians, lack middle initials, I had to include them because their names are in every other way perfect examples of the kind a ventriloquist’s dummy ought to have.
Too late, I thought of splitting the third drum in two, which would have produced such novelties as Pitchhead and Broomfork. And Stinkpop and Pramstorm and Moonscratch and 895 others.
This second machine took less time to make, has fewer parts and works better than the first. It uses a friction drive which is constantly applied to the 3 cylinders via 3 adjustable conical drums. A slowly-moving camshaft causes 3 levers to interrupt the cylinders at different times thus scrambling the stopping positions.
– Paul Spooner