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.

Showing posts with label Steampunk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steampunk. Show all posts

Monday, September 29, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Tarot Cards and the Art of Divination

The High Priestess of the Tarot Illuminati deck (2013). Image Source: The Tarot Review.

Welcome to this year's Hallowe'en Countdown! Be sure to check other blogs participating in this October-long blogathon, here. This year, countdown posts will appear every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until the frightful holiday.

Today's post looks at how the tarot deck started with Renaissance social commentary and became a modern occult game which tells your future. During the Renaissance, tarot became less a card game about late medieval life and more a divinatory tool with alchemical symbols. Posing a question to cards is known as cartomancy, a partly rational, partly irrational exploration of the subconscious in relation to objectively- and subjectively-experienced time:
The divinatory meanings of the cards commonly used today are derived mostly from cartomancer Jean-Baptiste Alliette ([1738-1791] also known as Etteilla) and Mlle Marie-Anne Adelaide Lenormand (1776-1843). The belief in the divinatory meaning of the cards is closely associated with a belief in their occult, divine, and mystical properties: a belief constructed in the 18th century by prominent Protestant clerics and freemasons.
With this merger of social, historic and mystical ideas, tarot card games became associated with how an individual life can mesh with the world's larger destiny.

An example of how pre-Masonic alchemical knowledge from the Renaissance was embedded in the earliest tarot decks; this moment of illumination on the left is from the Rosary of the Philosophers (1550), but actually derives from earlier sources and was reproduced in the Sola Busca tarot in 1491 (the Three of Wands, or Clubs, on the right). Image Source: Sola Busca Tarot 1998. 

Illuminatio: the alchemical winged sun (an Egyptian symbol, later represented as variants of the Christian cross, see below) from the Rosary of the Philosophers (1550). "Some of the woodcut images have precedents in earlier (15th century) German alchemical literature, especially in the Buch der heiligen Dreifaltigkeit ([The Book of the Holy Trinity] ca. 1410)." Image Source: Wiki.

"The winged sun is a symbol associated with divinity, royalty and power in the Ancient Near East." 'Winged Sun of Thebes' (from Egyptian Mythology and Egyptian Christianity by Samuel Sharpe, 1863). Image Source: Wiki.

Rosicrucian Christian play on the same symbol. Image Source: pinterest.

Comments on the 1912 Cagliostro deck reveal the nuances between famous tarot decks and their different origins and influences: "The deck is based upon the works of Papus (Gérard Anaclet-Vincent Encausse) who was a proponent of the works of Lévi. Qabalistic attributions are also based on Lévi, and the majors are numbered in the continental style. The keywords follow Etteilla. So how to read it? Like a[n occult] Wirth deck." This is the Hermit trump card, one of the major arcana, from the Cagliostro deck. Notice how the wicked are defeated when knowledge is inverted. Image Source: pinterest.

As far as we know, playing cards were likely invented in China in the 9th century; but they are not artifacts which would long survive and probably have an earlier history. Playing cards arrived in Europe, probably from India, in the 14th century. For cards from other regions of the world, such as Indian ganjifa cards, go here, here and here.

When it comes to tarot decks, you can look at the classics or neo-classics: there is the oldest known surviving whole deck, the alchemical Renaissance Sola Busca (circa 1491); reprinted by Wolfgang Mayer in an impressive limited edition in 1998); the Visconti-Sforza (15th century); the Scapini (15th century); the Minchiate (16th century - a larger deck which includes slightly different trumps, the signs of the zodiac, the four elements and four virtues); the Marseilles (16th century); the occult Etteilla (1791); the Classic (1835); the Soprafino (1835); the Rider-Waite (1910); the Cagliostro (1912); the Knapp (1929); the Thoth (1943); or the faux-antique Deck of the Bastard (2013), which reproduces many elements from earlier versions in a deck amateurs can actually use. Or you can look at the latest decks, which I do below the jump.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Retro-Futurism 25: Tozo - Empire of the Spider

Tozo (4 September 2013) © By David O'Connell.

You may recall this post and this post, in which I described a great Web comic that is a perfect example of Millennial retro-futuristic style. The cartoonist, David O'Connell, combines steampunk-ish early-modern-to-nineteenth-century costumes and imagery with futuristic tropes. He sets his hero's story in a world that looks like a cross between Renaissance Venice, the fin-de-siècle Ottoman empire, and 1970s' sci-fiction, all at the same time. One minute, the characters have Elizabethan lace collars, the next minute they are interacting with Star-Wars-type robots. It's just great. O'Connell finished his first odyssey with this character, Tozo the Public Servant, in 2012. Yesterday, after a long hiatus, he started a new story, Tozo - Empire of the Spider (see the beginning here).

See all my posts on Retro-Futurism.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Steampunk Swallow and Other Typewriter Sculptures

Image Source: Facebook. All images © Jeremy Mayer.

Today, a steampunk swallow, and other creations made from typewriter parts by Jeremy Mayer (-Thanks to -J.). You can see Mayer's other amazing artworks and illustrations at his Website here and his tumblr here.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bidding Farewell to the 20th Century

20th Century Fox logo. Image Source: flickr via Yoda_56.
The hardest thing about living through a turn of a century, let alone a turn of a Millennium, is that it is serious business. It isn't just a throwaway fact. 9/11 and the recession should have been a warning, a demand for some soul-searching. But even through the economic downturn, I know loads of people who have superficially surfed the wave of change with enthusiasm, and with scant consideration for what is going on around them. And, on the basis of their ability to go unfazed, they have really profited! But if one is sensitive at all to the deeper meanings in things, then it becomes difficult to absorb all that is happening. It is like having the volume turned up to maximum on everything, and the noise becomes debilitating.
In addition, many things are lost forever, and quickly. Anything suddenly and arbitrarily consigned to the dustbin of history becomes impossible to hold on to: there is no going back. Commonplaces of 15 years ago are unheard of today. The same goes with people and history.
You might see a Gen Y diatribe against the late Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, totally dismissing him as a product of the evils of the 20th century, in a way that would have been unheard of a few years ago, even from his critics. A friend of mine was recently talking to a guy in his early 20s. The latter had never heard of Alfred Hitchcock or Joan Rivers. I hyperlinked them, because I figure there are other people out there who have never heard of them, either.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Generation X: To Be or Not To Be

Hamlet Skull by Brain1 (26 December 2005); 52nd place entry in Skull. Image Source: Worth 1000.

Since the early 1990s, critics have claimed that GenXers are a spoiled generation, whose members complain and complain and complain (see: here (1993), here (1994), here, here, here, here, here, here and here). Here is an example of a Boomer perspective of Gen X's whining:
"They keep getting hired, these peculiar young folk, these grown men who warm up Lean Cuisines for lunches, these women who accessorize their workspaces with pillows and beads and inflatable orb-chairs. What’s more, they keep monkeying with office culture, making me change my habits; they want me to plot my vacations on CommonOffice, schedule meetings on an iCalendar, wrap up the workday in time for them to hit the gym. There’s a weird reversal of roles here; aren’t they supposed to learn from me?

Not likely. They’ve got nothing but contempt for my generation, for the big bubble of boomers they trailed into the world. We can’t figure out how to update our browsers. We eat corned beef specials. We still drive SUVs. In their eyes, I’m a dinosaur, bloated from squandering their birthright: cheap oil, open land, clean air and water, Social Security.

We’re not used to being resented, you know.

In fact, we’re used to being celebrated, our every milestone examined in painstaking detail by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek: our Dr. Spock childhoods, the rebellious teen years, our marriages (or non-marriages), the era when we were young parents, the dark days when our children left home, and the darker, recent days when recession sucker-punched us just as we should be joyously retiring. We’ve been the center of attention all our lives. Which is why it’s so strange, not just that we’re being supplanted, but that the generation coming up behind us despises us and can’t wait to shove us aside.

Every generational shift is seismic. And it only makes sense that a shifting of the biggest generation ever would be more seismic than most. Before we get out of Gen X’s way, though, I’d just like to point this out: We were right. We were pretty much right about it all.

We thought big. We believed in a new age, the Age of Aquarius. 'Imagine,' John Lennon exhorted us, and we did.

We were fighting more against than for, but as it turned out, Vietnam was bad; Nixon was a crook; how long our hair was didn’t matter. Numbers and righteousness were a dangerous combination, but we made it work for us. We were the Niagara Falls of generations, unstoppable, plunging ever onward, tumbling over ourselves in bubbling, churning enthusiasm. My younger coworkers would snigger at the idea of Harmonic Convergence, those three days in August 1987 when we hoped a new planetary alignment might change the Earth’s karma and, as Shirley MacLaine put it, open 'a window of light.' (Shirley MacLaine!) But we honestly believed we were part of something big, something important and good. ...

We’re sorry we didn’t leave our room as tidy as Gen Xers would like — that we didn’t bust the city unions, or 'fix' Social Security, or make the schools all shiny and new. Now that it’s their turn, the Xers will find out: Problems are hard! Life is confusing! Sometimes you have to compromise! But they’re like younger siblings, blaming us for having come before them, so sure that if we’d just go away to college, they’d have Mom and Dad all to themselves and things would be grand. Okay, then. You guys go ahead and take over. We’re tired, anyway — tired from having changed the world. ...

If you’ve ever had an honest conversation with your mom or dad, you have us to thank for it. If you get time off from work to take care of a new baby or a sick relative, you’re welcome for that. Getting a tax rebate for making your house more energy-efficient? Bike lanes, pocket parks, hate-crime laws, legalized pot, death-penalty moratoriums, organic food, space telescopes, genome-decoding — don’t you see what we were doing? We were taking the American dream to the max, pushing to its limits the pursuit of freaking happiness. ...

We don’t regret the way we lived our lives, other than the occasional bad LSD trip. We had our Camelot, our shining moment when peace and love seemed within our grasp, when holding hands and strumming a guitar could topple the mighty and bring the corrupt to their knees. Here, let me stick this daisy in the barrel of your gun.

Ah, but you’ll never get it; you can’t help it; you’ve always been afraid to dream, because what if your dreams don’t come true, the same way ours didn’t? You think the disappointment would crush you, just as you think it should — wish it would — crush us. Too bad. Suicide, if you think about it, is just an acknowledgement that you were better off once upon a time. You don’t even have that. All you have are your diminished expectations, your plodding nihilism, your laser-focus on being locavores, or triathletes, or microbrew mavens, or Gleeks, or Twitterers, or whatever new fad you’ve seized on to try to make you feel your lives are worthwhile and you’re going somewhere. Good luck with that.

A man’s reach should exceed his grasp. A generation’s, too."
Those criticisms find something wrong with Gen Xers' Möbius strip of complaints, that litany of self-justifications, that mountain of blame foisted on Boomers, the whining about Gen Y. And in this Boomer writer's final arch dismissal, there is the proclamation that Gen X has refused to engage, has refused to lay it all on the line and risk defeat in exchange for trying to solve the problems of the world.

Most Gen Xers would say they stopped whining long ago (or never whined at all) and just got on with things. The rest of them would likely argue that to complain is to describe a Boomer-led reality. But I don't believe that. And I would argue that the angry Boomer writer's final point has some truth: many Xers are holding a part of themselves in reserve. Time is running out. They only get one shot. Will they waste it?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Neo-Historical Exoticism

An actor (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) with Millennial looks played Henry VIII in The Tudors (2007-2010).

The University of Portsmouth's Centre for Studies in Literature is preparing a collection of scholarly essays on 'neo-historical exoticism':
The current phenomenon of the neo-Victorian, neo-Edwardian, neo-Forties, and more recently, neo-Tudor novel, seems to confirm contemporary culture’s persisting fascination with re-visiting and re-formulating certain key historical moments. This edited collection of essays intends to develop critical examination of the recent literary trend of the ‘neo-historical’ novel and to bring fresh perspectives to current debates on its cultural and theoretical underpinnings. We particularly welcome contributions on the ‘exoticising’ strategies employed by neo-historical fiction in its representation of one culture for consumption by another: What motivates this return to, and symbolic re-appropriation of, the past? Are certain historical periods more prone to creative re-interpretations than others? What are the implications of using a discursive practice intent on seeking elsewhere (in this case, the past) a mode of expression for the present? With the possibility of geographical escape now exhausted in our global age, has the past become the latest refuge from (post)modernity?

Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

• Neo-historical fiction in the global/trans-national present
• Exotic nostalgia in the neo-historical novel
• Popular culture, consumerism, and neo-historical exoticism
• Neo-historical fiction in the margins of Empire
• Travel, exploration and the exotic in the neo-historical novel
• Exotic historiography in contemporary neo-historical fiction
The collection acknowledges the Millennial fashion for reviving past time periods through literature, cosplay, costumed film dramas and tech-enhanced effects and gadgets, as well as the Internet's virtual reality historical manipulations and anachronistic reinterpretations.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Millennial Sacred Task

Image Source/Text: B.Mad.

Caption for the photo: "This may not be the specific torso he was writing about, but it's the one I think about. Rilke was probably referring to the Apollo torso in the Louvre, since he lived in Paris. However, I am sure that this is the torso that Michelangelo admired so much, and that had great influence on Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque sculpture. This statue was discovered in the Campo de' Fiori, in Rome during the period of Pope Julius II (pope 1503-1513). It was once believed to be a 1st century BC original, but is now believed to be a copy of an older statue, likely dating to the 2nd century BC."

Rapid change from technological innovation eliminates many traditions, values and objects from the past. This may account for Millennial attempts to preserve styles from the past, such as Steampunk, or what I have described on this blog as Retro-futurism (defined here as instances where people take things from the past and revive them now, or project them into the future; retro-futurism is more usually defined as past attempts to imagine the future). Maybe one of the sacred tasks of this period is to select aspects of the past and preserve them before they are lost, or to preserve their meaning before they are reset in Post-Postmodern contexts which make them unintelligible.

But maybe preservation of the past only accelerates change. The still-powerful past determines which things we cannot discard; it reminds us of the things we cannot escape. As a result, it is a catalyst for introspection. And anything we specifically choose to save from the turn of innovation will provoke all the more self-questioning. Ironically, the continued power of the past thereby forces change toward the future. This paradox about the continued life of the past and its transformation into the future reminded me of Rilke's poem, Archaic Torso of Apollo (see a discussion at the Guardian and modern translations here).

Friday, March 16, 2012

(Re)Turning Centuries

Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine: the birthplace of American Literature; American Literary Geography (1933). Image Source: Brain Pickings.

Decades come back into fashion cyclically. Parts of the 1890s, as well as the late 1920s-to-early-1930s, have dominated the period from 2007 to 2012. For the past five years, we got a real life revisiting of the Great Depression, with a Lovecraftian flavour.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Retro-Futurism 21: Twitter Not New at All -(STOP)-

The latest electronic gadget, straight from the 1890s to your desk: the Tworse Key, which digitally translates your telegraph-style Morse Code messages into regular Tweets. Image Source: Economist.

In their heyday, my parents and their friends were the last generation to travel by ship and communicate mainly by telegrams. Their collections of old private letters have wads of telegrams in them. We now see the seemingly obsolete brevity of telegraphy as romantic, and recall its peak as a form of global communication during the 1890s to the 1960s. There's even an Aussie company called Telegram Stop that lets you send old-styled faux telegrams to your friends; they say: "Our telegrams are made to look and feel like a classic telegram from the original days when telegrams were one of the only forms of national and international communications, we’ve taken great care to ensure the experience to the recipient is one that garners surprise and a sense of warmth." They've caught on like wild fire, and are especially popular in lieu of e-cards.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Retro-Futurism 18: Ukrainian Steampunk Computer Tower

Images Source: ÜberReview.

Here's another installment in my Retro-Futurism series, a cool Ukrainian gothic Steampunking of a computer tower, hand-carved in wood and hand-painted, by the man in the picture below, who is apparently Valerie Beetle from Pervomayske (Pervomaysk in Mykolaiv Oblast? or Pervomaiske in the Crimea?) city in southern Ukraine. I have not confirmed Mr. Beetle's name, but it sounds at best like a bad translation. The computer tower modification is amazing. Imagine playing the Cherynobyl video game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. with it. It looks like a tiny satanic woodstove!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Anniversaries: Remembering H. G. Wells

Today is the 65th anniversary of the death of H. G. Wells, known for his fin-de-siècle 'scientific romances,' published in the 1890s through the 1930s: "Following "The Time Machine" was "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1896), "The Invisible Man" (1897), "The War of the Worlds" (1898), "When the Sleeper Wakes" (1899), and "The First Men in the Moon" (1901). After this point he turned his prolific pen to social topics, history, and even a bit of hopeful prophecy with books like "Anticipations" (1901), "The Discovery of the Future" (1902), "Mankind in the Making" (1903), "The War in the Air" ,"War and the Future" (1917), "The Open Conspiracy" (1928), "The Shape of Things to Come" (1933), and "The New World Order" (1post on the anniversary of the author's death at 939)."  There is an excellent retrospective at Dark Dorset, here.  You can read many of his books for free at Project Gutenberg, online here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Interludes

Points of Departure II: Nijinsky Variations (1996) © Peter Milton.

The blog is going on a summer interlude while I polish off some work on other projects.  I will post weekly pieces between now and summer's end - more if events merit it.  Regular posting will resume in late August.  For today: check out these remarkable, time-tossed, surreal images by Peter Milton.  All images are © Peter Milton and found on his Website; you can see an animation of how he changes the same scene in different prints here (Hat tip: Woods Lot). There's a bit of Edward Gorey in these art pieces, as well as some neo-Realist-Impressionist touches, neo-Art Nouveau, Steampunk, Escher, and some Piranesi.  But the overlapping, ethereal, mental-physical realities, along with the neo-fin-de-siècle temporal themes, are pure turn of the Millennium.

In Search of Lost Time (Second State: Visions and Revisions [No. 123]) (2006) © Peter Milton.
Sight Lines III: Eclipse (2011) © Peter Milton.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Nuclear Leaks 10: A Beautiful World

Nuclear Memories (14 August 2009). Image © ~cuber/Vladimir Petkovic/Vladimir Studio. Image reproduced with kind permission.

Today, the news is grim, but not as dire as it was on 27 May, when a Super-typhoon known as Songda, then a catergory 5 storm, appeared set to hit the Fukushima plant directly.  By 28 May the storm was downgraded to a category 3 and changed its path slightly.  As 'Tyler Durden' at Zero Hedge remarked: "The good news: by the time it passes over Fukushima, Songda will be merely a Tropical storm. The bad news: by the time it passes over Fukushima, Songda will be a Tropical storm. As the latest dispersion projection from ZAMG shows, over the next two days the I-131 plume will be covering all of the mainland."  The fallout will also be blowing over the Koreas, eastern China and eastern Russia at this time.  The real danger from Songda (aka Chedeng), aside from the nightmare of coping with three simultaneous meltdowns in a typhoon, is that radioactive fallout will be carried up into the atmosphere by the storm system.

Image Source: Weather Underground (Hat tip: Zero Hedge).

Video Source: ZAMG via Zero Hedge.

In addition to the position of the I-131 plume (we're not even talking about the presence of plutonium at the site, which isn't being discussed much), there are almost 100,000 tonnes of radioactive water at Fukushima, not including the radioactive water already released into the sea and polluting the immediate vicinity in the Pacific.  And while the amount of radiation released is currently 10 per cent of that released at Chernobyl, a TEPCO official has estimated that Fukushima's radioactive fallout released may eventually exceed that of Chernobyl.  There is a constant trickle of problems reported, most recently, a fire at the neighbouring Dai-ni Fukushima plant (not the one where all the problems are) and cooling system failure in Reactor #5 at the Dai-ichi plant.

There isn't much on the Web that states how storm systems like typhoons, hurricanes and tornadoes might carry radioactive fallout along with regular wind patterns.  Certainly, a tornado carried fallout at Kyshtym, when it touched down on a radioactive dried lake bed where waste had been dumped, turning the site into a nuclear disaster zone of seriousness equal to Hiroshima.

You can trace the daily radioactive plume over Fukushima here.  You can follow the daily Jet Stream projections over North America, here.  Meanwhile, the American Midwest is getting catastrophically battered by tornadoes, which not only potentially carry Japanese fallout while spreading disaster; they have caused little-reported damage to American nuclear plants in Alabama as well. When you add the flooding that damaged other nuclear plants along the Mississippi River, which involved the release of radioactive water into the river system, followed by tornadoes that pick up the water and carry it into the atmosphere and an unusually high level of North American spring rainfall - well - it's starting to look like a house of cards.

Meanwhile, as if matters in the civilian nuclear sector were not bad enough, nuclear weapons problems are also looming.  Even in circles noted for sober assessments, observers commented this past February that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon within one year and missile capabilities within two years; according to Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London: "Whichever method were used, at least six more months would be required to convert the gasified HEU into metal and fashion it into a weapon. The minimum timeline, then, for the first weapon, is over two years under the Pakistan method and one year for the batch method. Developing a means to deliver a nuclear weapon adds to the timeline. Last May [2010], in a companion Strategic Dossier on Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities, the IISS concluded that Iran’s Sajjil-2 missile, which has a range of about 2,200km, is still two to three years of flight testing away from becoming operational."

But even in the face of horror, we can find something beautiful.  Two stories on Fukushima and Chernobyl are reminders of this.  On the day of the Japanese earthquake, the telescope at the Hoshi no Mura ('Village of Stars') Observatory in Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture, cracked in half; one portion of the telescope, weighing about three tonnes, rolled down and crushed the seat of the astronomer. Fortunately, the director, Hiroaki Ohno, was away at lunch.  Despite being only 33 kilometres from the plant and just outside the evacuation zone, Ohno is still attending to the facility.  He is also seeking to help local evacuees, and has been travelling to shelters with small telescopes.  Taking advantage of the fact that all city lights are turned off in the region, he is teaching them how to look through these telescopes to see the stars.  From the Japan Times: "'A bedridden woman came out of the evacuation shelter once in a wheelchair to take a peek. She told me she could distinguish the rings around Saturn,' Ohno said. The planets and stars appeared to provide much-needed cheer in the evacuees' lives, he added."

The twenty-fifth anniversary of Chernobyl last month also inspired a renewed appreciation of the natural environment in the evacuation zone.  Boing Boing ran a piece on the sounds of birds, animals and insects there at dawn and dusk (-Thanks to J.).  The recordings were made by London sound artist Peter Cusack in 2006; you can listen to them here.

In addition, a charity album of dark ambient and horror music, Remember Chernobyl, was composed to commemorate the anniversary. There is an album sampler from Ambientaria Records, below the jump.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Retro-Futurism 13: The Analytical Engine

A section of Charles Babbage's difference engine, assembled after his death by his son, using parts found in his laboratory. Image Source: Telegraph.

Last October, the Telegraph reported that a British computer programmer was raising money to build the original archetype for the first steam-powered computer from the original blueprints by mathematician Charles Babbage:
The Analytical Engine – conceived in 1837 – remains one of the greatest inventions that never was as Babbage died before he could see out its construction. However, John Graham-Cumming, a programmer and science blogger, now hopes to realise Babbage’s vision by raising £400,000 to build the giant brass and iron contraption. He plans to use Babbage’s original blueprints for the device, which are contained in a collection of the inventor’s notebooks held at the Science Museum in London. The campaign has already attracted 1,600 supporters who have pledged funds to kick-start the project. Elements of the engine have been built over the last 173 years, but this would be the first complete working model of the machine.
The machine is controlled by punch cards, which you can see here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Retro-Futurism 12: Professor Xavier Steampunk Wheelchair

 Steam Punk Professor Xavier's Wheelchair © Daniel Valdez. Image Source: Steampuffin.

This month, an exhibition is wrapping up at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltham, Massachusetts: Steampunk, Form & Function: an Exhibition of Innovation, Invention & Gadgetry.  The exhibition runs until the second week of May and is sponsored by ModVic and Steampuffin.  Interior designers from ModVic will give your home a complete Steampunk overhaul under the motto: "move into your old new home."  The style is also called neo-Victorian; it features new tech incorporated into nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century English and European designs with Jules Verne and H. G. Wells touches.

Steampuffin specializes in housing our modern tech in Steampunk designs and gadgets.  One of the no-miss items in the exhibition is the Professor Xavier Steampunk Wheelchair, designed by Daniel Valdez.  There is a demo video below the jump showing the chair's various features, including smoke-puffing, noise-making, and vodka cocktail churning.  Actually, it kind of reminds me of that 1980 horror film, The Changeling. The Museum's catchphrase is View the Past, See the Future.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Retro-Futurism 9: Looking Back at the Past, With the Past Looking Forward at Us

Villemard (1910) - En L'An 2000 - At School.

A few days ago, I picked up on an I09 review of the Millennial Web comic Tozo - The Public Servant (see my post here).  To better grasp Retro-Futurism, I want to compare Tozo to a collection of postcards from 1910, in which the French artist Villemard envisioned the year 2000. In this case, a fin-de-siècle Futurist closely resembles the work of a turn-of-the-Millennium Retro-Futurist. Villemard's collection has been making the rounds on the Web for about two years. It is housed at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF; French National Library); but it has been carried on - among other sites - Flickr, The Pursuitist, We are Replicants, The Society Pages, The UtopianistSelectismBoing Boing, BldgBlog, and A Cultivated Mindset, (many thanks to J. for the reference).  These sites all picked up on the charm of an outdated futurist.  But they did not explain why those images resonate so much now and why they are so popular on temporally-oriented Websites like How to be a Retronaut.

 Villemard (1910) - En L'An 2000 - Chantier de construction électrique.

Two things strike me about this 1910 collection.  First, Villemard's understanding of the future shows us just how impossible it is for us to accurately predict what things will be like, even one short century from now. That means we should look at current claims, such as those from Boomer futurist Ray Kurzweil and other wild hypotheses regarding the Technological Singularity, with some skepticism.  For a recent Transhumanist critique of Millennial Futurists, go here.

Villemard (1910) - En L'An 2000 - Air Firemen.

Second, while Villemard's 1910 predictions were eerily correct in some respects and wildly off in others as far as our daily reality in 2000 went, his pictures accurately predicted the Millennial taste for Retro-Futurism.  Villemard's images closely match our illustrations of the future as we gaze back toward the past The past looks toward the future; the present looks toward the past (with an eye on the future!); and the two views overlap almost exactly.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Steampunk Etch-a-Sketch

Boingboing is carrying a picture of a Steampunk-styled Etch-a-Sketch (Hat tip: @swadeshine).  The designer comments: "I supposed I could have called it Vintage Futurist Self Contained Clockwork and Valve Powered Mechanical Anachronism." More from her below the jump.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Millennial Twelve Days of Christmas Day 9: Retrofuturistic Fashions

Image Source: Trendhunter.

Trendhunter reports on festive Paco Peregrin designs that bring the past into the future: "Paco Peregrin for White Sposa has definitely done it again. Teaming up with his faithful stylist Kattaca as well as makeup artist Lewis Amarante, there is nothing he cannot do." Other styles mentioned on the Trendhunter site quickly veer into a mishmash of Elizabethan, baroque and revolutionary historical retro references with a dose of the 1980s and futuristic spacewear for good measure. In addition to historical fashion retreads, the trends rely heavily on Darwinian evolutionary themes, with designs, make-up and accessories echoing fish scales, butterflies and other insects. From 'Victorian Surrealism,' to 'Avant Garde Warrior Wear' by designer Manuel Albarran, to military chic - this is the future.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

An Heir Apparent for H. R. Giger?

Killing Time (2007). By Jud Turner.

Hallowe'en - are we there yet?  In my run-up to this autumn festival, I have to thank my friend J. for coming across the American artist I'm mentioning in my post today.  The artist's name is Jud Turner.  He's a Gen Xer from Oregon, and he is  taking H. R. Giger's themes to a new, Post-Postmodern industrial level in his sculpturesBy Post-Postmodern in this case, I mean the juxtaposition of different time periods in a single existential narrative.  Turner's aim appears to be to create and somehow shockingly reconcile paradoxes.  He installs the ancient or the fossilized within industrial sculptural constructions and goes one step beyond Postmodern messages about disjointed, navel-gazing subjectivity.  This produces some visceral, jarring results, as with the fossilized junkyard fish trying to eat a dime in the sculpture, Greed Eater, below.  I haven't seen a better comment, anywhere, on the inflationary psychology that led to the Great Recession of  2008 to the present.  You can see more of Turner's sculptures on his homepage, here

Greed Eater (2010). By Jud Turner.