Creative Nottingham logo
Creative Nottingham logo
Artwork by Patrick DolanMore Information

Guest Blog- Optical Toys part 2

The Typophonium

Hello and welcome back to part 2 of my exploration into optical toys and contraptions.

In this part I want to look a little wider at other artists use of visual contraptions, big and small as well as a couple of unusual childrens’ toys which have caught my eye. As a follow on from part 1, this first toy again utilises the Zoetrope principle (as featured in part 1 of this blog) but instead of using slots to act as a shutter it uses an adjustable strobe. Ingenious and satisfying: The Strobotop.

Here is Jim Le Fevre showing some lovely examples of using the principle of the zoetrope but in three dimensions and with slightly more contemporary equipment i.e. the record turntable. This time it is the frame rate of the camera filming the turntable which interrupts the image flow and creates the illusion of sequential movement. He calls it The Phonographantasmascope:

Note the audiences obvious delight at seeing the illusion of movement in such a simple and tangible way, much like he’s showing them a magic trick. The difference between this and magic is that the audience knows how the illusion is being created and still they are enchanted. As am I. There is definitely some currency in that…..
This next clip features the same principle as above i.e. enchanting the public with seemingly simple principles of visual representation but this time on a much larger scale. This clip doesn’t attempt to explain how the contraption works. Instead it seems to focus on those crazy cockneys on the other end of it- gawblimeyguvnaa. The Telectroscope:

This is another clip of the same contraption but this time with no messing about and explaining exactly how it really works. It does almost make an interesting point about how technology can be presented/represented and how we therefore react to it. The name ‘Telectroscope’ actually originates from a victorian invention which would enable users to transmit live images to each other any time and anywhere in the world. It was very famous at the time despite the fact that it never existed. The Telectroscope again:

In 2009 Origamibiro made two appearances of The Typophonium- a contraption that comprised of a typewriter that triggered sound and image along a given theme. The user was invited to type messages relating to the theme and they would be rewarded with image and sound. What was surprising to us at the time was how much viewers enjoyed using the typewriter, particularly children. Sometimes they lost interest in the audio-visual side of the installation completely, despite the fact that most of these same people will have used qwerty keyboards to write and interact with every day. For Typophonium images go here: and click on The Typophonium.

Anyway- back to real childrens optical toys. This is one I had as a present and I’ve just adapted it to run from the mains. I’m still experimenting with how to incorporate it into the Origamibiro set but I think I can see some themes already. The Eyeclops (batteries not included):

Finally I want to feature one last toy which has no obvious relation to the other toys Ive touched on as its not exactly optical and yet I find it extremely intriguing and quite beautiful. And I’m not exactly sure why:

I hope you’ll continue reading this guest slot next week as I hand over to musician, artist, composer and producer and originator of Origamibiro: Tom Hill. Thanks for reading!