Dee and I have been discussing The Future today. I found a New York biomechanical sculptor who made an elaborate steampunk faux eye-tap for a Dutch recording artist. (I love sentences like that). It’s useless, sadly, though it looks pretty. My idea, prompted by Mike, is to re-mix such a sculpture with these instructions to make an attractive gargoyle camera. I can’t figure why it’s not possible.
Dee’s point, however, was that such a creation would be almost retro now. I agree. It smacks of the retrograde innocence tied to Raygun Gothic, part of the nostalgia arc which continues to widen. In the 80s and 90s, people were reaching back to the 20s and 40s, the flying cars and bubble-cities on the moon that western civilization seemed certain would exist by the year 2000. (Flash to all the scientsts who’ve claimed we’ll have AI “in the next five years” for the past fifteen.) Now, however, we’re tying ourselves to yet another ideal we never really captured. Instead of wincing over the 80s obsession with fractals, we’re coasting past the smooth plastic dreamscape of never having to clean your kitchen all the way back to the Victorians with their clockwork automatons and overly elaborate brass chasings. Goggles, dirigibles, dramatic clothing with too many buttons and locomotives… It’s fun and adventure in a way that cellophane furniture never was. Re-creating Jules Verne, but with better technology. Workable technology. A group in San Francisco are even trying to build a Steampunk Treehouse for burningman 2007.