ELIZABETH KING | Clockwork Prayer
A document of the monk in motion: he is seen
first fully clothed, and then with cassock and cross removed. Close-ups
show the winding of the mainspring with the key, the operation of the
fusee, the motions of the head and mouth, the left arm, the feet, and
the mechanism by which the figure walks and turns. The performance of
the kiss may be seen during the close-up shots of the head: as the head
bends forward the mouth shuts quickly: a hungry, even a menacing kiss.
The automaton itself is entirely original in all its parts and in good
working order. Only the cassock and cross were replaced later. Watching
the video, one notices right away that the kiss fails to make the wanted
contact with the cross at the penultimate moment. The original cross might
have been taller or held higher in the hand, or, alternatively, the mechanism
driving the left shoulder motion may be worn or misadjusted.
Video made by John Hiller
for the Smithsonian Institution, running time 5 minutes, no audio.
Automaton figure of a monk, South Germany or Spain, c. 1560; National
Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
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