Colonizing the Past so we can dream the future
Steampunk is a re-envisiong of the past, with the hypertechnological perceptions of the present. Unfortunately most so-called “steampunk” is simply dressed up recationary nostaligia. The stifling tea-rooms of Victorian imperialists and faded maps of colonial hubris. It is a sepia-toned yesteryear more appropriate for Disney and Grandparents than a vibrant and viable philosophy or culture.
First and foremost, steampunk is a non-luddite critique of technology. It rejects the ultra-hip dystopia of the cyberpunks with their black rain and nihilistic posturings; while simulatenaously forfeiting the conceit of the noble savage fantasy of the pre-technological era. It revels in the reality of technology, its very beingness as oppossed the over anlyitical abstractness of cybernetics. Steam technology is the difference between the nerd and the mad scientist. Steampunk machines are real, breathing, coughing, struggling and rumbling parts of the world. They are not the airy intellectual fairies of alogorythmic mathematics but the hulking manifestations of muscle and mind. The progedy of sweat, blood, tears and delusions. The technology of steampunk is natural, it moves, lives, ages and even dies. It is the first real technology, just as God animated clay with breath, man animated lifeless metal with steam. Steampunk, like the mad scientist, refuses to be fenced in by the ever growing cages of specializations. Leonardo DaVincic is the steampunker touchstone, a blurring of lines between engineering and art. Fashion and function mutualing dependent like the piston and steam. Authentic steampunk seeks to take the levers of technology from the technocrates and powerful who seek to drain it of both its artistic and real qualities-turning the living monsters of technologies into the simpering servants of meaningless commodity.
Authentic Steampunk is not an artistic movement but an aethestic technological movement. The machine has become liberated from effeciency and designed by desire and dreams. The sleekness of optimal engineering is replaced with the necessary ornamentation of true function. Imperfection, chaos, chance and obsolence are not to be seen as faults but as ways of allowing spontaneous liberation from predictable perfection. The factory of consciousness is overthrown by beautifuly entropy. Steampunk creates a seamless paradox between the practical and the fanciful. It expands the horions of both art and technology by being freed from the maniacal control of man’s puropses. Steampunk technology is neither slave nor master but partner in the exploration of unknowable territories of both art and science.
Steampunk rejects the myopic nostaligia drenched politics so common among so called “alternative” cultures. Ours is not the culture of Neo-Victorianism and stupefying etittiquette. An escape to gentlman clubs and classist dictation. It is the green fairy of delusion and passion unleashed from her bottle, stretched across the glimmering gears of our rage. We seek inspiration in the smog choked alleys of Victoria’s duskless Empire. We find solidarity and inspiration with the mad-bombers with ink stained cuffs, with whip-yielding women that yield to none, with the coughing chimney sweeps who have escaped the roofs and joined the circus, and with mutineers who have gone native and have handed the tools of the masters to those most ready to use them. We are enflamed by the dockworkers of the Doglands as they set Prince Albert’s Hall ablaze and empassioned by the dark rituals of the Ordo Templi Orientis. We stand with the triators of the past as we hatch impossible treasons against our present.
Too much of what passes as steampunk, denies the punk. Punk in all of its guises. Punk – the fuse used for lighting cannons. Punk – the downtrodden and dirty. Punk- the agressive do it yourself ethic. We stand on the shaky shoulders of opium-addicts, asethe dandys, inventors of perpetual motion machines, mutineers, hucksters, gamblers, explorers, madmen and bluestockings. We laugh at experts and consult moth eatten tomes of forgotten possibilities. We sneer at utopias while we await for the new ruins to reveal themselves. We count to ladies or gentlemen in our midst. We are a community of mechanical magicians enchanted by the real world and beholden to the mystery of possibility. We do not have the luxury of niceties or the possession of politeness for we are rebuilding the yesterday and ensuring our tomorrow. Our corsets are filled with safety pins and our tophats hide vicisious mohawks. We are fashion’s jackals running wild in tailorshop.
It lives! Steampunk lives in the reincarnated collective past of shadows and fogotten alleys. It is a historical wunderkabinet, which promises, like Dr. Caligari, to wake the somambulist of the present to the dream-reality of the future. We are archeologists of the present, reanimating hallucinatory history.