Austria's nonsense museum spreads comic relief

2015-08-14 19:17
A pair of voyeur's glasses at the 'Nonseum'. (AFP)

A pair of voyeur's glasses at the 'Nonseum'. (AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Herrnbaumgarten - 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.

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."

Read more on:    austria

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.