Wednesday, August 26, 2009

STEAMPUNK ? Uranus-Saturn!

In a nutshell (I like my nutshells) Steampunk borrows fashion from the late Victorian era, as well as embracing the art, literature and look of that first mechanical age, an age in its infancy; it also embraces a fantasy that is purported to be the ideology or philosophy behind it all.

Astrologically, this phenomenon could relate to the Saturn-Uranus opposition currently in place above us. Although the roots of the Steampunk fad do reach further back, it has penetrated into a wider public view during the past year or so. Could it be reflecting the old astrological theory: "as above, so below"?

Saturn, representing the past, engineering, tradition, etc. is in straitlaced Virgo and lies in opposition to Uranus. Uranus represents the future, technology and all it entails, and lies in dreamy, imaginative Pisces. These two planets and all they represent are symbolically pulling against each other above us; here below the concept and visual display of Steampunk reflects this.

There are multiple layers of Steampunk : a superficial layer of fashion and jewellery; a literary layer of novels; an artistic layer of illustration and design. There's an engineering layer, a musical layer, and, importantly, there's an ideological or philosophical layer. Overall too, in my opinion, there's a thick layer of affectation, and - dare I say it - misguided thinking?

Steampunk is escapism, for sure. Escape from what though? From the difficulties, dangers and fears of 21st century life? Life in the period they are embracing was far more dangerous, far less exciting than they are trying to convince themselves. It was smelly, unhygenic, and unless one was wealthy it could be downright unpleasant. The poor were very, very poor and under the heels of landowners and early factory owners - the poor were little more than slaves. That is not something to celebrate! Celebration of how far we've come would be more appropriate - even taking into consideration today's many remaining flaws.

Steampunk has been "bubbling under" for longer than 2 decades among a narrow coterie of artists, engineers, authors, designers. Only in the last few years has it started to surface sufficiently for outsiders to cotton on and jump onto a bandwagon which could be about to start rolling in earnest. Here's where the Saturn-Uranus opposition might be involved. The planetary opposition had been very slowly heading towards exactness for several years.

Morbid Outlook says:

"What is Steampunk, you might be asking yourself. Is it a celebration of imperfection in an imperfect world? Is it a reclaiming of lost physicality in an increasingly digital age? Or an amalgam of past and present filtered through a future that can never be; a way of destroying the linearity of time and history? A merging of the Cyberpunk hacker ethos promoting freedom of information with a Punk DIY attitude, or a re-creation and romanticization of a technologically advanced, steam powered Victorian Era that never was? Fortunately for us, there are as many explanations for this burgeoning subculture as there are participants. And that is what makes Steampunk so special – it is what you make of it.

Steampunk is adventure, fantasy. It hones in on an historical time, the Victorian Era, when many industrial machines had yet to be invented and there were still unexplored worlds a steamship away. Wonderment and astonishment were everyday experiences as technology progressed rapidly, and the world began its long journey towards hyper-connectedness. The Internet Age has made our modern society a place seemingly devoid of anything left to explore or discover. And so Steampunk appears to be mining the past for a time when the world was ripe with possibility and adventure. Steampunk is a way of creating sublime awe within an apathetic, overly-connected, jaded culture. "

One worrying thing I notice is the prevalence of weapons in the photographs of individuals togged up in beautiful vintage-style Steampunk gear. Not a good way to go guys! Not if you are hoping for a future of peace! Those guns are machines whose only purpose is to kill - that is ugliness at its worst and contrasts sharply with any beauty you may perceive in their design.

But fashions were interesting, intricate and have a particular nostalgic beauty. Machines appeared beautifully complex and today even they seem "pretty". As an artistic movement, I see some value, but as a philosophical one, I see only misguided thinking.

To end on a positive note, one good thing I can imagine coming from the artistic layer of Steampunk, is the re-cycling of bits and pieces from defunct objects and machinery to create new pieces of art.

Steampunk chronology - note its growth! Steampunkopedia -

Photographs of Steampunk fashion at Flickr

More Steampunk fashion: The Beauty of Steampunk

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