#4: Back to the Future

#4: Steampunk Hands Around the World: Our Classroom

What have I learned from the steampunk movement?

The aspects and philosophies of steampunk encourage my desire to learn:

  • re-imagining the past as the inspiration to build a better future
  • optimism about human potential, encouraging individuals to explore their creativity
  • the spirit of freedom
  • science with beauty (seen in the wonderful crafts, machinery and inventions).
  • rejection of mass marketing and encouragement of hand-made individuality
  • Reuse. Recycle. Repurpose.
  • encourages individualism and self-reliance, allowing us to break free, to be creative, unique and express ourselves (the punk part).
  • the acceptance of others

On a practical level, I have been inspired to do research on people and events of the 19th century. I have learned things I was not taught at school; we learnt about Darwin, Edison and Freud. But where were the lessons on Tesla, Ada Lovelace, Elizabeth Blackwell or Margaret Eliza Maltby?

I have researched 19th century transport, communications and historical events (being a writer of steampunk, this was inevitable). I have investigated the inner workings of Queen Victoria’s household and servants. I have attended lectures on tintype and daguerreotype photography and gained insights on the Victorian mindset via research on post-mortem photography. My bookshelves are now groaning under the weight of extra books. (I can never have too many!)

I have delved into the construction of 19th century clothing (being a costumer, this was also inevitable). I have visited museums, studied extant items and searched the internet for information on the fashions of the era.

Some useful books are: 

Fashion, art, philosophy, economy, society –  all are available for us to study. The good, the bad and the ugly. Bad things happened. We know this. With history at a safe distance, we can choose to emulate the best of the past. We can learn from past mistakes.

We have a choice. We have the opportunity to improve the world. We can choose to rekindle loyalty, manners. We can choose to help those in society who are less fortunate than us. We can make medical care available to all. We can reflect on the 19th century’s impersonal industrialisation and its repercussions on the environment. We can choose to work to protect the environment by conscientiously designing our scientific advancements and encourage sustainability. We can learn from the philosophy of make do and last by not perpetuating our throw away society.
Reuse. Recycle. Repurpose.

On a More Personal Level

I have a dual life – my art/writing and science. After high school, I chose University – a Bachelor of Applied Science. I chose a safe, secure career. I denied my artistic side. Steampunk has taught me to embrace all of my passions. It has reminded me I all allowed to have both; science can be artistic. Creating – whether it be writing, art or costume – is cathartic. It is teaching me to deal with anxieties of the modern era, via my writing. When I create, I am free. Anything is possible.

victoria visual

Welcome to my classroom.


6 thoughts on “#4: Back to the Future

  1. A really insightful essay on Steampunk and why it means something in the 21st Century. I agree that science at its best when it is harmony with art. Our greatest Artists were imagineers who predicted the future. Leonardo Da Vinci to Jules Verne. Perhaps artists can benefit from a more scientific training? It must help you see the world in a clearer light.
    Karen. Your honesty is refreshing and I look forward to hearing more from your part of the World on Steampunk and retro-futurism. I think I denied my artistic side too. Shame. Thank you for sharing your lessons learned. Best regards Steve Moore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *