This is Henry Archibald Mintox, a spectacularly unsuccessful inventor and therefore largely unknown to the public.
Mintox loved automation almost as much as his own family, who nevertheless had to deal with the constant threat of robot counterparts. Examples of Mintox’ failed innovations can be seen in The Oopsatorium, an exhibition at the Sydney Powerhouse Museum, Australia, which will open during mid 2013. Among the exhibits are not only mechanical dog and a prototype laptop messenger, but also a few of Mr Mintox personal items, including the 1927 Austin Tourer that he planned to drive to Tasmania and the fat suit he wore to impress his audience at a lecture in the midst of the Great Depression.
The character of Mintox is in fact made up by the 2011 ALMA recipient Shaun Tan, as part of a collaboration with the Sydney Powerhouse. The project involves fictional histories of real objects from their archives, and explores the vast cemetery of achievement that lies behind every enduring innovation. It questions many assumptions we might have about ingenuity. What does it mean to be truly original? Should creativity be measured only by success? Or is it really the thought that counts … no matter how impractical?
Shaun Tan comments the exhibition on his website:
– Beneath the silliness of the project there is actually an important observation: all invention begins as a daring act of imagination, and beings with a play of outlandish ideas. For every success that filters into daily use, there are countless failures that are as important a testament to creative spirit.