Absurd yet comic: Austria’s ‘nonsense museum’ a huge success

  • AFP
  • Updated: Aug 17, 2015 19:49 IST
A summer sled is displayed at the 'Nonseum' museum at the Austrian village of Herrnbaumgarten, north of Vienna near the Czech border. (AFP Photo/ Joe Klamar)

If only Susanne Machac and her brother-in-law Fritz Gall, had known that their absurd museum of all things nonsense would become a huge success.

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.

From a transparent suitcase for nudists to automatic nose pickers, Austria’s museum of nonsense and its vast collection of silly yet brilliant inventions are proof that bad ideas, if carried out well, can turn into genius creations.

Every year, thousands of people from around the world flock to the small village of Herrnbaumgarten, close to the Czech border, to find comic relief at 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," says Machac, a co-manager.


Susanne Machac, co-manager of the 'Nonseum' museum, poses behind numerous single socks collected from all over the world at the museum. Austria's museum of nonsense and its vast collection of silly yet brilliant inventions have gained a cult following among fans of the absurd. (AFP Photo/ Joe Klamar)

Her brother-in-law, and sculptor, Gall, co-founded 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 became a huge success.

The five artists created a not-for-profit association that 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, and in the end, they decided to unite all these silly ideas under one roof. Today, hundreds of pieces are spread across the nonsense museum’s three large buildings, with new items added by the founders on a regular basis.


A pair of voyeur's glasses is displayed at the 'Nonseum' museum. (AFP Photo/ Joe Klamar) 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," says Machac.


Suicide-selfie rifle on display.(AFP Photo/ Joe Klamar)

Another highlight is “the world’s one and only collection of famous button holes”, concealed inside little square boxes with transparent lids. There is also a rifle with its barrel twisted backwards so that the muzzle faces the shooter.

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