From: "davide.mana@…" <davide.mana@…>
Date: Tue Mar 14, 2006 12:32 pm
Subject: The Castaigne collection - yet another item
ITEM #95111-M "THE BIRDCAGE" - SHADOW PROJECTING MACHINE
This item, originally bundled together with a more prosaic collection of watches, sundials and other time-pieces, looks like a complex three-dimensional contraption of brass rods, pulleys and wheels, including some simple human and animal shapes, the whole resembling a fifty centimeters high, thirty centimeters wide cylinder of "mutated clockwork wreckage" (the definition originally entered in the catalog when the Castaigne Collection was originally seized after the war). The base of the contraption is marked by a deeply-incised triangle-shaped notch. Limited movements of some portions of the structure can be caused by random changes in position of a number of counterweights and balancing bars, "mobile sculpture"-style. The whole does not appear to make any sense, neither artistically nor aesthetically.
According to the original notes (dated 1939), the object is a sundial of sorts or, to be more precise, a shadow projecting machine: if oriented correctly (details missing) and left alone in the sun, the birdcage slowly starts moving, projecting a long "Chinese shadows" sequence on the ground. The three-dimensional lattice of rods and wheels turns into a series of bi-dimensional, ever-changing shadow rooms, in which human and animal figures seem to interact in some complex pantomime. Further annotations become increasingly deranged.
It has been suggested that somewhere in the Castaigne mansion grounds was located a sundial basement on which the Birdcage could be fit and oriented univocally(sic).
Davide Mana Torino, Italy