Basement Archeology

We did an amazing dig thru layers of crap in the basement, dug up some
old pictures, found old lunches, chucked all sorts of things that
everyone agreed should have been chucked many years ago, and saved
lots of useful stuff (crazy, right?).

New developments:

* you can actually see and walk the whole corner by the breakers/
lighting shelves

* the upstairs lightswitch now turns on a light in the basement! no
more walking thru pitchblackness guiding yourself to the powerstrip by

Today we get to make the space better! The trash purge is done, its
piled up at the front of the shop. Here’s a little snippet of the

basement archeology


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Classes are back, finally, after years and years of exile in fake idea land. Right now, classes include leatherwork, absinthe making, sewing, electrochemical etching of brass and steel using household ingredients, and, (of course) two types of welding (easy and ugly/ hard and elegant) taught by Artstars with a disturbing range of personalities. Check back every now and then, as the list of offered classes will grow and grow as people get their shit together and commit to teaching.

Go to to see what we have to offer, and sign up quickly at classes (at) madagascarinstitute (dot) com, as space is limited.

To get all fancy and Web 2.0 (are we still on 2.0? I am old, and ten years out of the tech world) use the comments to let us know what kind of classes you wish we gave, and if the desire seems to be out there and the ideas aren’t too laughable (like: no fire spinning. No creepy dude magnets, or any classes that involve touching other people. No improv. Nothing even remotely “spiritual” or containing the word “feelings”. The word “potential” should only be used in the EE sense.) we will try and make a class happen. In exchange for giving us a great idea we can use to profit, you get nothing, but you will get the opportunity to pay to learn stuff. Which is good. For us, at least.

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The world needs jet-powered carnival rides.

Interview with Hackett about pulse jet engines and more:

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Teach a Class at MADA this Winter!

Teaching classes at Mada will be awesome and you will get paid.  Want to teach one?  Here’s how:
What should I teach?
Classes can be literally anything that you can teach in the shop.  Popular classes in the past have included welding, screenprinting, machining, sewing, etc, as well as craft workshops, or more advanced technique classes.  Classes are generally two or three hours, but it is up to you to determine how much time you need to teach your class.  If you are teaching a skill that requires more knowledge/practice, consider making it a multi-week class.  This is for two reasons: a) we make more money and b) many of these people who pay to take a class may come back to monkey on  your projects.  Wouldn’t it be nice if they had a solid foundation in not breaking tools when they come to work for you?  Oh yes it would!
Also feel free to think of creative class formats.  If you are working on, say, a jet engine, it is perfectly permissible to teach “How to Build a Jet Engine” as a several week class.  Just bear in mind that if people are paying to be your monkeys you have to actually teach them stuff and not just send them on beer runs and have them sharpen drill bits.  Also, then when they do come back to monkey they will somehow feel like they are getting something for free, which will be amazing for us.
How Much do classes cost?
Classes are mainly priced based on undercutting 3rd Ward.  A general guideline for class cost should be based on the skill, and on how many people can attend the class.  For example, a welding class should cost approximately $25-$30 per person, per hour, and should be limited to 6 students.  A soapmaking workshop, for instance, should be limited to about 12 students and should cost approximately $15-$20 per student per hour.  Some classes can come with a one or two day shop pass, this has yet to be determined.  Madagascar Institute gets 50% of the money for the class, and YOU, the fabulous instructor gets the other 50%.  It is up to you to propose a student limit for your classes, and we’ll work with you to arrive at the appropriate price.  To this end, teaching a class does not count for your shop dues.  If students will need consumable materials, this should be an extra “materials fee.”
When do classes take place?
We are shooting to launch classes by mid-January, and start advertising them by December 15.  It is up to you to figure out when (what days, what month) you would like to offer your class/es.  Evenings and weekends are the best times for classes, and be sure to put second and third day/time choices for scheduling.  We will send out requests for class proposals seasonally every 4 months or so.Do you have to be a shop member to teach a class?
You do not have to be a member of the Madagascar Institute to teach a class here (as long as you know what you are doing, and don’t make things break), but current members get the priority in terms of scheduling.
I’d like to teach the same class in March, and again in April.
Great!  Please fill out a separate form for Section 1 and Section 2 (just dates and times are needed, no need to re-type your description, etc.)
I can’t wait to teach a class!! What do I do?         Fill out this form, and return it Lis & Rivka at  CLASS PROPOSAL FORM   for January, February, March, April
Class Title:
Brief description:
Class Format (i.e. how many sessions, how many hours per session)
Limit to how many students?
What days/times would you like to teach this class?
First choice:
Second choice:
What tools do you need to teach this class?
Do we have these tools and are they in good working condition?
Is there a materials fee for your class and will you be able to purchase these materials? (i.e. $20 for silk screens and squeegies)
In what area of the shop will your class be held?
*******Please return this form to******

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Graphics Archive

Best Idea - 4 Here’s a small collection of Mada graphic art.  Featuring work by:  Jason Engdal, Leslie Stem, and Polina Soloveichik.

There is a lot more work out there folks. Please send me your photo documentation of poster, banners, etc.

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Madagascar Photo Archive

Photo Archive

Photo Archive

I’ve been collecting images of Madagascar Inst. events for years here on Flickr.

There you’ll have access to hi-res copies of everything.

Artstars, please go nuts and tag the photos.  Add commentary. Take credit for victories and assign blame for the failures.

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Working on Jet Ponies

Building Jet Ponies_11 Some peeps in the shop working on jet ponies.

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Jet Ponies night test run

Before we were crazy enough to put people on it, we ran it at 3am the night before, so you can see the jets a’ glowing:

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Gadgetoff 2009

Madagascar flying horse

Madagascar flying horse

Thanks everyone for the hard work! The Thundersteed Jet Ponies will return! For more info on the next appearance, subscribe to the announce list and watch this site. Or if you have a venue for it, contact us at

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Big Bike on Myrtle Ave

Iris and Mia brought their big bike out for a street fest one Sunday on Myrtle ave–432 myrtle near vanderbuilt–

10 ft recumbent

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noli turbare circulos meos

we went out to build for a music festival in Stradbally, county Laois, Ireland ( in august of 2008–
built a lenz turbine and two water tanks which, in turn, powered our water wheel which drove a 360degree vertical carnival ride counterweighted by a portion of an eyebeam.ireland 01
ireland ride 02

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Jet Blender

Electric Picnic Festival
Stradbally Estate, Ireland


Participants mount a pulse-jet-powered carnival ride which turns a blender to make delicious smoothies.

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Ring My Bell

McCarren Park Pool, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

A lewd Double Dare–like physical challenge involving a helmet, a water hose, and mannequin legs mechanically rigged to rise in response to aquatic ‘stimulation.’” – Artforum

ringbell6 ringbell5 ringbell4

ringbell3 ringbell2 mada

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Fireless Fireworks

Washington Square Park, NYC

A watery event featuring the thunder, pulses, screeches and colors of a fireworks display without the use of a single pyrotechnic. 

Photos by Julia Solis



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Washington Square Park, NYC
July 23, 2006


Just as history is written by the victors, conflicting versions of the wide and varied history of Washington Square Park are resolved in a maelstrom of violence and hilarity.

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Fireless Fireworks, going into a crazed frenzy of production starting Sunday

One of the first slogans of the Madagascar Institute was “A fine mix of obscure history and blowing shit up” and Fireless Fireworks combines the two, along with sexy pirates, lasers, and Shane Gross in wet, clingy clothing that leaves nothing to the imagination (except for confusion as to what, exactly, that is supposed to be a tattoo of).

In only a week we will be blowing shit up  in Washington Square Park, and WE WILL GET AWAY WITH IT- we have permits, permission, and even a budget. There will be rockets and geysers and a guy screaming in German while cracking a bull whip, strobes and balloons and lasers, did we mention the lasers?

It will be the best event ever, with good intentions and dangerously misguided sincerity that goes horribly, horribly wrong, with awesome tech hacks, clever work used to subvert gravity, and Diet Coke used for evil.

Or, it will be Mark and Ben wet, crying and alone, and the event the coolest thing that could have been but did not come off because YOU did not step up and help. A ton of people have been working like Japanese mules for weeks but the event will not happen unless you step up and get to work. It will be fun, rewarding work with almost instant results, both in the week leading up to the event and esp. on Friday night when it all goes down.Fireless fireworks needs monkeys skilled and not so-skilled to build props, assemble cannons, rig lighting, and run the show on Friday night.

Also, we need a ton of people to document it.

Following is Mark’s exacting lists of tasks (before and during) and
things the project needs.

Before the event, people are needed to :

– Wire solenoids and switches
– Put together PVC for launchers
– Art up the fake rocket
– Make flags
– Help do some experiments with the diet coke fountains and concussions
– Help us scavenge some soda bottles
– make some platforms and stands for the rocket, lasers and photo board
– set up lighting and lasers
– pull a gig bag
– twist a  – small marching band / noise band / accordion players –
collective arm into playing during the show…
– make biting and sarcastic remarks

We also need

– soda bottles and water bottles
– high pressure containers: broken compressors, long dead fire
extinguishers, out of date
– canvas bags or sacks

– People to load and fire the rockets
– People to fire the water cannons
– People to help with the concussions
– People to unleash the awesome power of Soda
– Flag people
– People to do laser effects

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Class: Beginning Welding with Ryan

>If you want to impress your sexy neighbor, your girlfriend, or your favorite bartender, or you want to fix that rusty hole in your car, take this class. The infamous Ryan and his cohorts will teach you all that you need to know to get started, and he’ll entertain you all the way. He may even tell you the metal-sliver-in-the-eye story. This is our most popular class and is always full. Sign up ASAP by emailing After you pre-register, you must pre-pay. This is because people sign up then don’t show and we all have better things to do.

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Danger Blender, Irish Festival Update

So Saturday at the shop was a frenzy of concentrated Danger Blender activity in true Madagascar style- people who just stopped by for other reasons or to lend a quick hand doing heroic amounts of crucial labor (thanks, Jason), the thing getting done right at the last minute, things going horribly wrong at the party on a test run (blender blades flattening out from centrifugal force cutting thru the trash can blender body at high speed, this throwing the axle out of true) and a miraculous save from the usual dark horse heroes (Angle Grinder, Shane Gross). Danger blender was well and truly dangerous, reducing fruit and ice to their component atoms REALLY REALLY LOUDLY. At one point I turned to Jason(after lovely bartenders wearing face shields, gloves, and hearing protectors were tossing unlucky oranges and ice into the spinning maw of razor-edged Hurting while the ravers on acid tried to run in horror, only to be blocked by the ravers on speed crowding in for a closer look), and said “You know- this is pretty stupid, but far from the stupidest thing I have ever done at a party and he concurred. It was pretty stupid, but made us a few hundred bucks, and with four hours of work can actually be upgraded into a useful industrial drink maker. (If you want to help out on that let me know.)Thanks to all that helped, including the poor Apex Tech welding student who had never built anything before and who panicked when she realized that we needed the thing that night.

Blender work,combined with lateness, short notice, crippling hangovers, and general lack of interest kind of crippled the Ireland meeting. If you have a good, fleshed out idea (no time for fake ones of any kind) e-mail it to me, and we will try and do the design-off online, as time is tight. I am going to try and bullshit our way into an invite and 10 plane tickets now, idea and plan later, but if you run an Irish festival you have to be good at dealing with bullshit from pros, so I am not hopeful.

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Zombie Freak Out

Philadelphia, PA

A wave of mutilation on the streets of Philadelphia. With live bands, dead DJs, and the zombie death squad. Groovy.


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Death Rattler (Jet Fish)

Robodock Festival, Amsterdam


A jet-powered carnival ride, built onsite at the Robodock festival in Amsterdam. Two booming propane pulse jets spun a 200-pound steel fish and a rider fast enough to turn the horizon vertical. Insanely loud. Radically unsafe.


and more:

Death Rattler

early jetfish run

first run of the pulse jet for jetfish

first jet test for jetfish

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