Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Historical Figures Turn Millennial

The Telegraph posted photoshopped artworks designed to show how five major historical figures would look today: "The artworks, which took three months to create, were created under the watchful eye of award-winning academic, author and historian Dr Suzannah Lipscomb to ensure the new artworks accurately reflect how the historical figures might look in 2013." (Hat tip: Curious Portraits of Dead Elizabethans via -C. Also posted at Gizmodo and elsewhere.) All images are from The Telegraph. The selection includes an adaptation of the disputed Cobbe portrait of the young Shakespeare. This is one example among many of how technology has changed our awareness of the past and made it plastic and anachronistic.


  1. It took three months to epicly screw up proportions and photoshop painted heads onto photographed bodies?

  2. Heh, I think they had problems with shoulders particularly! Clearly, the concept trumped art. It is fun at a glance, but a closer look reveals they had problems conceptually too. For example, with three of these reconstructions, how could absolutist royals find parallel in famous figures today? Were they like our politicians, or our celebrities? The parallels are jarring because there is no accurate cultural correspondence. I suppose Princess Diana would be the closest contemporary model who might compare to Marie Antoinette.

    The transformation of Marie Antoinette as one of today's stereotypical ultrarich party girls is tricky. I would have thought a bigger impression would have been made if they had depicted her in contemporary blue jeans and a tight top - more of a Paris Hilton celebutante or a Britney Spears type. If they wanted to 'translate' her by retaining her social class, then drawing parallels with contemporary royalty, other than Diana, would actually not be all that exciting. A similar model from that part of the world would be someone like Princess Anna of Bavaria, born princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleberg. Maybe they are not that far off; here is Princess Anna:


    But - turning Henry VIII into the Dos Equis guy and a hipster Shakespeare (!) - ugh. I felt that it reflected something typically Millennial, namely, the desire to muck around with history and a sense of the flow of time with technology. It especially looks like it is difficult for people to understand the past on its own terms, unless it has been put through the mass media meat grinder and photoshopped.

    I'm not sure that this is always true, since urbex, ghost-hunting and steampunk are popular cultural millennial movements which deal with the past at least partly on its own terms. But when you add technology to the mix not as a tool of observation, but as an artistic tool or a tool that manipulates reality (any reality, including history), then historical imagery is 'made relevant' to people by putting it in today's terms. Anachronism, willfully created by technological manipulation, is another facet of the arrogant obsessive blindness that pops up around Millennial technology.