About Thomas Kuntz
A new project of Thomas Kuntz, the film ‘The occult world of automata’, has given us the perfect excuse to introduce you to the creative world of this genius.
Born in 1965 in Phoenix (Arizona – USA), Thomas J. Kuntz is a contemporary artist on a mission: bringing ancient arcana and modern technologies together as weapons for aesthetic enlightenment. His father was a surgeon and his mother a folk artist/doll maker, and he has been working as a professional artist since 1986.
Kuntz takes an alchemical approach to his art, being designer, sculptor, mechanician, automatist, animator, modelmaker, painter and conceptualist… all in one.
Mechanical influences include 18th and 19th century android makers and the great parisian makers of the golden age. Artistic influences range from Expressionism, Dada /Surrealism, to the old masters Albrecht Dürer, Hieronymus Bosch, Bruegel, Da Vinci or Archimboldo. Magical influences include Wolfgang von Kempelen, Robert Houdin, Walt Disney and the early Imagineers like Rolly Crump.
Simon Drake said ‘Thomas’s projects tend to feature the mysterious, uncanny, sometimes darkly horrific and bittersweet sad aspects of human nature. It is not uncommon to see his projects packaged with a strong dose of ‘gallows humor’, theatrics and magic’.
A micro-interview with Thomas Kuntz
Q.- Our Machinarium collection was inspired by Steampunk and our Metropolis collection was inspired by Fritz’s Lang masterpiece, so it seems that gears are one of our soft spots… what about you, why have you chosen such a demanding discipline like mechanical animation? It is an unusual ‘language’, indeed.
Thomas Kuntz (TJK).- I have a wide range of interests but I like the idea of total art, art that is immersive, tangible and not confined to a screen. So 3-dimensional mechanical animation is a means to that end. The history of automata is rich and goes all the way back to antiquity. In my youth I experienced the haunted mansion at Disneyland when it first opened and that shook my world! It felt like I was in one of my dreams. Disney the man is often confused with the corporation that bears his name today. I argue that Walt’s vision was very personal and informed by attention to detail, artistic Styles of the old world and most importantly to me he and his early team developed audio animatronics taking the cue from 19th century European automata makers. Walt understood storytelling and all the technology was used to tell a story. He invented the modern theme park. But times have changed and I think it is time for a fine art themed environment of a different kind. My automatons are a micro cosmic view of something much bigger in scale yet they each tell their own little story.
Q.- From your point of view, which is the relationship between automata and Magick?
TJK.- Automata, the occult and stage magic have a rich and mostly secret history. In ancient temples there were secret devices used in statues and figures that gave them a supernatural impression. They were used by priests who were the only ones who knew the secret aside from the mechanical wizards who made them, they were the true magicians in the shadows from a long tradition of alchemists who studied natural philosophy and tapped into the inner workings of nature.
Q.- Correct us if we are wrong, but we think that ‘The occult world of automata’ is your fist movie. Which are your main objectives releasing it and why now?
TJK.- ‘The Occult World of Automata’ is a personal project which aims to connect the dots between magic , technology and what why I do what I do. It is going to take lots of work as I am funding this all on my own at this stage.
Q.- When we think about Georges Méliès movies we understand why cinema has been described as the ‘dream factory’… would you consider ‘The occult world of automata’ a step forward for you on the field ot magical illusion apparatus?
TJK.- The Occult World of technology is really just a document to present for a project of an even larger scale called Somnambuland. Somnambuland is the fine art magic filled macro version of the micro prototype I have been developing for nearly 2 decades. This will be a walk through exhibit. I am working on this with Bob Self who runs Baby tattoo books and has been involved in organizing astounding events. It will be worth the wait!
Q.- We are aware you have experience working for the cinema industry, who would you like to work with if you had the chance? We think that the result of a collaboration between Guillermo del Toro and you, for example, would be fascinating.
TJK.- I guess I’m an anomaly because I primarily operate outside all industries but last year Guillermo Del Toro asked me to build two mechanical pieces for the upcoming film Crimson Peak. Of course I was very excited to do film work for a genius like Guillermo!… He found me in 2009 and started collecting my automata which lead to the Crimson Peak film commissions. Earlier on when the Criterion version of his film Cronos came out on DVD, in the extras, he gives a tour of his “Bleak House” museum/ laboratory and even demonstrates my hand cranked regurgitating “Fakir “automaton. You cannot imagine how thrilled I was to see that!… Mind you Cronos blew my mind when I first saw it upon its original theatrical release in the states.
Q.- What are some of your future plans down the road?
TJK.- I’m working with Bob Self on a sneak peak of Somnambuland which is very exciting. Also ,I have many new automatons and artworks in development which cover a wide range of interests. Much of this work has been created in obscurity for the last two decades… So Somnambuland is a high priority, the time has come to share a larger vision with others because in the end that is what is was meant to do.
Q.- Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us, Thomas, we would like to take this chance to wish you the best of luck for your future projects. Is there anything else you would like to add?
TJK.- I would like to add: Thank you and all my best to your projects as well. We are all connected in this crazy world!
As we have said from the very beginning of Decimononic as experimental project, we are living a time ruled by programmed obsolescence and disposable goods, where craftmasters have become an endangered species. It is time to do something about this, don’t you think?
Credits.- All images courtesy of Thomas J. Kuntz.