Kiwi kinetic artist gets slot on Sesame Street

By Scott Kara

Dream comes true as New York-based NZ YouTube sensation exhibits his work on popular kids' TV show

Kiwi Joseph Herscher makes a plant-watering machine out of a car tyre on Sesame Street. Photo / Supplied
Kiwi Joseph Herscher makes a plant-watering machine out of a car tyre on Sesame Street. Photo / Supplied

He's exhibited his work at the prestigious Venice Biennale, become a YouTube sensation, and now New York-based Kiwi kinetic artist Joseph Herscher has been invited to exhibit his works on one of America's most famous boulevards - Sesame Street.

Okay, so the kids' show doesn't quite have the contemporary art cred of Venice, but for Herscher, who grew up watching the programme, it's a childhood dream come true.

In the Sesame Street episode, which screens today in New Zealand, he is interviewed by Murray Monster in Central Park about what a kinetic artist is ("It's someone who makes art that moves"), and makes a plant-watering machine out of a car tyre, some sticks, a rake, and coat hangers, among many other objects.

The 27-year-old, who has lived in New York for four years, has been making "strange contraptions" since he was six.

"I made a machine, so when my mum came home from work at night, when she pulled the door it would pull a string which was attached to a tape player that would play a recorded message from me saying, 'Welcome home, mum'. Things like that," he says.

In his early 20s he started getting obsessed with the Rube Goldberg Machine, a contraption that carries out a simple task in a complex way.

"My flatmates and I started building this thing in the living room and after a while they lost interest but I kept going and going and after seven months I ended up with this thing going around the whole apartment."

He filmed it, put it up on YouTube, and after it went viral he started to realise that perhaps he could make a living out of his childhood hobby.

His most popular invention so far has been The Page Turner which has clocked up 7.5 million views on YouTube and was the reason he got invited on to Sesame Street.

The episode screened overseas in February and while he was beamed into millions of households around the world it hasn't resulted in more work and a run on commissions just yet.

Not that he minds. He's just happy to have Sesame Street on his CV because in the future he has plans for a kids' TV show of his own.

"I'm only just realising how much kids feel inspired by watching kinetic art. It's a really good demonstration of creativity in its true sense because you're taking something like a cup and saying, 'This isn't just a cup. What else is it?', which means kids are using their imagination. I think it's a great way to teach them creativity."

His current project is The Dresser, his most ambitious machine yet which helps him get dressed, including ironing his clothes, shining his shoes and putting on a tie. He hopes to take it on tour as a live performance piece later this year.

• Joseph Herscher is on Sesame Street, 2pm today, on Four.

- NZ Herald

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