The swash-buckling scrap-merchant poet is Robert Coudray, and he is clearly a man of extraordinary inventiveness, originality and energy. He has been in his time a film maker, stone cutter, farmer, cider maker, and sundry other things - he says he always envied people who knew from an early age what they wanted to be, that he never knew but always knew he wanted to know. The museum, as it is called, since, he says, museums should not only be reliquaries of the past, has taken him over twenty years to make, and he's still at it.
It's main feature are the automata, the intricate, powered sculptures, which make you smile and smile.
The indoor ones that you come to first are made from all kinds of reclaimed materials, but are metal based.
Many of them play with light and shadow in surprising ways,
with satisfying lines and forms.
They are distinctive and sometimes distinguished characters.
The one above was perhaps the most complex and dynamic. A series of balls were dropped and caught, several doing different things at once. Sometimes a ball would go one way, sometimes another, sometimes one and sometimes two would drop into one place. Sometimes one would appear to fall uselessly to the floor, but in fact there was a slope which ensured it would eventually end up in one corner, where it was taken up by the slow-moving large green wheel and returned to the system. We pressed the button for this one at least three times in an attempt to take it all in.
The sculptures are intriguing and funny, but more than mere novelties or whimsies; everywhere there is a sense of beauty and transformation. The presentation and decoration is delicious..
Outside, and in the further buildings, the constructions, which are his later works, are larger, and made using much more wood.
- as well as other salvaged materials
The lady above plays a tune on old tin soldiers' helmets.
and this vessel belongs to the pêcheurs des étoiles, the Fishers of Stars. There's a good video of the making of it on the museum's website.
The character above is l'aeronaute.
There's a strong ecological spirit to the place. There are some very handsome earth toilets, which use woodshavings,
only there are instructions not to use any shavings if you're only having a pee, as well as a moral motto reminding us that: Pope, prince or beggar, all are humble on this throne.
There are examples of solar, wind and water energy,
and some very well-lodged chickens.
Coudray's latest projects have taken him away from the moving machines and back to building. I like the picture above, not because it's a great photo, but because it's got my sister, Molly and Tom in it, in receding spatial order. Don't know who the person in the red jacket is, but the figure seated on the top of the rock is, I think, the Hermit,.
And this is the Hermit's House.
He has a television, to give him a view onto the world outside. A text above it reads I have seven oak trees on my telly, which are indeed what is you can see, but in fact anyone can appear on TV here,
The Hermit also has a Meditation Tower,
with this hand-shaped seat in its lowest room.
The strange watchtower, a stalked, organic building, is very recent, and doesn't even feature on the website or plans of the site.
We like the coast of Brittany, are glad to be close to it, and for holidays we tend to visit other coastal areas. But there are some real treasures in the interior too, if you know where to look. This is an altogether witty, playful and joyous place, but there's also a kind of depth and almost solemn vision to it which is quite extraordinary. Highly recommended.
(The link in the first paragraph is to the museum's own website, which is all in French but very worthwhile, not least for the photos and videos, the one on the making of the Hermit's house is delightful too. However, there is also this article and interview in English, a good translation, on the website for the town of Josselin.)