The future which never was

The future which never was
Category: Art and Photography

Retro-futurism is one of my favourite genres when it comes to aesthetics. I guess part of the appeal lies in its ambiguous nature; the conflict which arises in the eye of the 21st century beholder, when he sees a depiction of his own time or the near future (which in some cases has technology supposedly far more advanced than his) through a clearly, say, 19th century Victorian or mid-20th century technicolor lens. One of the reasons why I love Clockwork Orange is the bizarre and somewhat erie effect of a 60’s mind trying to envision the the aesthetics of our time – Beehive hairdos in neon pink/green, color field wallpapers & so on.* 

Therefore, I almost feel obliged to promote one of my favourite blogs – Paleo-Future, entirely dedicated to retro-futuristic art. Here you find the entire field, ranging from Victorian steampunk fantasies to mid-30’s speculation of future war technology and 60’s science fiction nostalgia. I may have a slight preference for the former two, but, heck, it’s all worth the time.


Some other retro-futurist primers.

First, some useful concepts: Alternative history, AnachronismClockpunk, Steampunk.

Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, tonight. One of the best music videos of all time…

And the film that inspired it.

Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, vol. 1. Fighting with steel sabres. In space.

Metropolis (1927 film). Unlike the others, time has not yet caught up with Fritz Lang’s dystopian vision of the year 2027, where robots rule a higly segregated society awaiting messianic redemption through “the Mediator” (Needless to say, The Wachowski Brothers owe almost as much to this one as to Neuromancer). Still, it’s proto-googie architecture and C-3PO-style robots makes it firmly entrenched in said genre.

Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy (1888, full text online). Late 19th century novelist envisions the year 2000, when the United States has turned into a socialist techno-utopia, where everyone retires with full benefits at age 45, the productive capacity of the nation is commonly owned, and people listen to classical music in their homes through a “cable phone.” Needless to say, the antics of the 20th century have taken its toll on this one (Or, as the retro-futurist conoisseur would see it,  given it a considerable anachronistic charm).


*Given some thought though, I guess our own speculations about the future will seem just as amusing and out-of-place for future archaeologists who dig up our remains in a hundred years or so (In the same way as our aesthetics and fashion probable will feel as outdated as, say, Soft Cell or Dead or Alive). After all, it prettty much comes down to a matter of your frame of reference.

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