Friday, July 03, 2009

Lets get Steampunked!

(English artist Alex CF's 'inquisitor' eyepiece which belong to a series of mechanical devices based on writings of Jules Verne and HG Wells)
With mankind's sudden discovery of environmental conscience over the past decade, heightened by apocalyptic zombie laced dystopian visions of dying mother Earth, sustainability has become the new post-political world religion. Humanity already running late on the 2001 Space Odyssey schedule and having no scope of space-escape, its has become even more urgent to engineer a more balanced retrofitting for the climate that so badly needs to be managed into obedient submission. Presently most nature & god fearing nations (even the middle east) having expressed their desire to shift away from fossil fuels and towards more greener technologies, we can expect a planned 'rehabilitation' if not an electronic revolution. But I believe like many other products even this green technology will manifest itself through economic hierarchy, like organic-inorganic, leaded-unleaded, tap water-mineral water and finally electric solar powered and steam-punk! Steam punk is a science fiction sub genre that speculates on alternative reality where steam power and mechanics most often styled along Victorian Industrial aesthetics is the predominant technology used in day to day life. Anthony Lucas's 'The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello' with its exquisitely detailed animation (you can find a good description of this one on Lines and Colour blog) or Katsuhiro Otomo's Steamboy are some examples that employ the steampunk genre of conceptualising the environment. Due to the high cost of solar panels, Windows programming and Apple motion sensitive microchips that can detect smell, water, missiles and dust particles this part of technology will be affordable to a selective few (who can afford to be fashionably green with matching emeralds and jades) while the rest of the majority will certainly revert to steampunk technology.

(Steampunk watch by Cabestan Watches, their website also has other alternative designs)
My personal bias towards this genre is due to its easy readability, as if however technologically sophisticated mechanics gets one can see the moving parts and understand what moves what and how each part influences the other, like opening up a watch and being able to understand the gear box.

(model used in the 2002 Time Machine movie)
As if technology has been made open source with different people adding and subtracting making changes, customizing their own computo-abacus and not requiring Windows Vista Firewall anti piracy programmers.

(A robot from the Golden Army from Hellboy 2: The golden army by Guillermo Del Toro)
I also like the visual richness the representation has with mechanical details that stand proof of its workability and also in some cases the choreography of all these parts together in the manner of old industrial Victorian machines with brass knobs, glass lenses, silver chains and wooden programming plates etc. Bjorn Hurri's revisualization of Star Wars characters, Stephen Rothwell's strange surreal collages, Lawrence Northey's playful sculptures, to some extent Arthur Ganson's Kinetic sculptures etc are some of the many artworks that derive inspiration from this genre.

(An artwork named 'The Fishing complex' by David Trautrimas, whose this particular series named Habitat Machines includes a composition of everyday objects carefully arranged and collaged within a background to distort their scales and make these household objects appear to shelter the house. Though the artist does not confirm to steampunk, his work comes very close in terms of its visuals)
Few more years and soon it will be time to start pedalling, running, skipping, turning and arm oneself with kinky accessories all in the name of sustainability! I don't know if mechanization of technology will actually democratize it making it more accessible and comprehensible, but if we miss this speculative future and gears turn little wrongly we might even find ourselves pedalling electricity for ourselves and the Bank. Boom! boom! boom! row your boats!

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