If you’re not on my list of friends, or followers on any of my feeds. then chances are you are coming in for Artprize related things, have seen us on the news, or just stumbled upon this page – and you may not quite know what “steampunk” is.
In a nutshell, Steampunk is a return to the days when people were familiar with the technology they used, nearly intimate… but not in any sort of naughty or profane way… I am sure there is another name for that…
… but what I am talking about: Those times when something broke, the owner knew how to fix it. If the part was broken, they knew who to go to to have the part made, if they didn’t make it themselves. Everything was quality: quality materials, quality craftsmanship; The things you owned, if they broke (which was far less likely), you fixed them, because they were just that awesome… nice wood, bits of brass or steel… every part, every gear, every cog, crafted with pride and often decorative for no good reason other than to say “I made this, and I did a fantastic job of it”.
On the flip side of using old technologies, familiarizing ourselves with them, revisiting old inventions and designs that were unsuccessful perhaps due to a lack of the proper materials or support technologies – is familiarizing ourselves with the technologies of today, on the same level that people were once familiar with the technologies of their day.
We splice, we cut, we reprogram e-proms, we wire in computers or computer parts for controls… maybe powered by a sterling engine, or an 1800’s-style solar energy, or a gasinator, or whatever the heck we can make out of a bucket of discarded scrap and some broken antiques… we use, and re-use *everything*. Ours is a culture of reliability, sustainability, eco-conscious, and an opposite to the modern day way of throwing away what is broken or discarding anything that is more than three weeks old for the next new thing… another piece of plastic, old the day it is unboxed.
But again, it is about quality, pride, and ingenuity…
Which is much like any good painting or other artwork…
Art should focus is on quality and craftsmanship… like the paintings of our beloved eras, where people actually cared about what they were doing: from the canvas chose, the gesso layered, into the pigments picked and mixed by hand – with great attention to detail and every detail about the details.
… That sort of realism and attention to detail one would expect of John Singer Sargent – and other proud artisans- from those days before everyone grew up expecting to be a celebrity or famous… without any required effort or skill… the age of entitlement, and this “the Emperor Has No Clothes” mode of assessing and promoting art in order to satisfy the sort of fast-food way that has filtered into every aspect of life and business.
No paint dumps here, no splotchy works painted with various unspeakable body parts, no sob story, or heartwarming tale, or intriguing title to make up for lack of work or imagination… skill, and attention to quality are essential.
In this, there is something incredible quite about seeing a real-world object recreated perfectly with pen or pencil or in paint – yet… quite incredible considering that such images used to be done entirely from eye or from memory… but we live in the age of cameras and scans and enlargements – which not only renders realism tedious and completely unnecessary, but somewhat lackluster and less than special these days. These days, there isn’t much point in having a perfect pencil drawing of en existing object, when it could be photographed, and likely was photographed before the drawing.
Surrealism, is applying the actual skills of old, while going above and beyond to create images of things that do not, did not, might not ever exist, and pushing one step further towards “cannot” for those who apply themselves. In effort, and application, it excels to be something beyond mere abstract and beyond realism.
There is that exciting spirit of inventiveness and imagination, combined with the traditional dedication to hard work that was once the mark of artisans, artists, and craftsmen – seeking to make the unreal real, or at least seemingly likely if only in its own self-contained and self-made world. For this reason alone I feel it fits remarkably well with the genre, which based in speculative fiction, both requires and inspires these sorts of works.
Steampunk, craftsmanship and pride in work aside, is about imagining and re-imagining – looking at the future through the eyes of the past, and vise-versa – to create something bold and new, plausible, perhaps even possible – mixed with a wonderful touch of impossibility and improbability – the subculture in itself is a sort of surrealism – more than merely fantasy, bound to science, history, practical knowledge, self-reliability, and sustainability- it ties the real to the unreal, tangible and intangible – and inspires us to dream the impossible, while exploring the very fringe of possibility.
Our project, is in the spirit of steampunk and in the spirit of surrealism. Fantastical in nature, and tedious in its crafting. Bordering on impossible and improbable from the very beginning stages… yet certain to happen. do or die. Everything from the painting itself, to the structure it is painted on, to the structure surrounding it, and the engines powering it, embodies this spirit… the best woods, the best primers, the best paints, and painstaking effort in every detail from the planning up…
I am very proud to be a part of this project, and do hope you come out to see it between the 21st and the 28th. I also ask you to take the time to register to vote (at a number of official Artprize hubs throughout downtown), and vote for our project. Voting is highly important to this contest – and the beauty of this contest is that it allows the people to decide what is art, what isn’t what is good, and what they would like to see more of.
Hopefully ours is a project that leaves you wanting to see more from us. I feel it will be, we’ve worked very hard to make it so.
Thank you for supporting us, and for your interest and participation, this has been a wonderful experience already,