The lifesize puppet Eumel

The lifesize puppet Eumel
 Ignore the people behind that puppet (you will.)

Puppetry can be like an optical illusion in three dimensions. We know what’s true, but it fools us anyway.

Watch this video of the street puppet called Eumel, operated by the German puppet group Stabfigurencompany. What’s interesting is how easily we ignore the five masked human operators and concentrate on the stick puppet. The humans are right out in the open, but we don’t focus on them because we’re interested in the puppet, and not just because he’s fluorescent orange and yellow and the puppeteers are dressed in black.

Why do we focus on the puppet? It’s because Eumel interacts with people, and we watch to see what he will do, and how others will respond to him. The operators become inconsequential, like strings on marionettes, or the rods that create arm movements on muppets. We can easily see these things, but we choose to ignore them. We choose not to see them.

When we recall a performance by a puppet "actor" where we can see how they move, don’t we remember what the actor did, and not how the actor did it? We might tell others: "I saw this big puppet controlled by five people, and the puppet climbed on top of this person and…" We don’t say: "Five people made the puppet climb on this person…" Instead, we focus immediately on the character of the puppet, and forget who or what makes the puppet work.

That’s how our attention is diverted, and how we’re mildly deceived into believing the puppet is "alive."

Eumel the puppet in Berlin

If you like him, here are more videos of Eumel in action:

– Eumel rides a bicycle>>
– Eumel in winter in front of the Bundestag>>
– Clearer video of Eumel’s climbing routine>>
– Eumel greeting the crowd (I suggest turning off the annoying and inappropriate music)>>
– Eumel encounters a children’s theater group who won’t react to him because they’re "frozen">>

The company that runs Eumel: Stabfigurencompany>>

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