Steampunk is the retro brother of the cyberpunk fashion. Art, fashion and jewelry are strongly anachronistic, almost the similar items that you might find in the submarine of the Jules Verne novel "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". Old clocks, lamps gas airships, submersible, goggles, helmets, compasses and various mechanisms are common objects produced by artists, usually brass, mahogany, leather and rivets.
Comic books introduced this current in the 80s, but the Internet has allowed people to share their inventions and socialize with other fans. British blog "Brass Goggles" and Steampunk Tribune are discussion forums for everything ranging from steampunk, and Boing Boing regularly post material on the subject. Steampunk has several Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts. Canadian account has over 9,000 members.
Steampunk style, with shades of sepia, mixes the obsession of the past with a dash of romantic heroism. Current fans are often serious and very smart. Steampunk British magazine, founded in 2007, put on the head:"Before the homogenization and micro-technology era and the spread of electricity, there were gorgeous cars, that lived, breathed and exploded unexpectedly in inappropriate times. It was a time when art and craft were united, when unique wonders were invented and forgotten, and punks walked the streets, living in abandoned houses and fighting against despotic governance through wit, will and wile. "
The exhibition from Oxford museum was achieved when Art Donovan, an American steampunk artist, contacted the museum director, Jim Bennett, to show him his sculpture. They agreed that since Steampunk has many technical and aesthetic influences taken from the nineteenth-century Victorian science, an art exhibition of scientific devices would complement the museum's collection. Museum called Donovan in charge of this event.
An era of eccentric inventors
"Indeed, many steampunk practitioners are not very interested about science. But when we see a trend using this cultural capital in an original and attractive way, we want to be part of it. From our point of view it is an artistic movement prevalent and popular, "said Bennett.
The exhibition presents lanterns, wall clocks, broken steam powered devices, watches and rings, an electrostatic machine with two plates and a press copy of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Many inventions are completely bizarre, like a breathing device attached to a leather helmets, elephant shaped.
During the visits, the atmosphere is effervescent. "What a pervert!" Exclaimed an old man to his wife while watching glasses leather with brass tentacles. About the same subject, a man told to his child: "Imagine you meet someone wearing that. I think you break into a run."
Bennet was amazed by "the huge volume of interest" that has generated the exhibition. "The number of visitors doubled," he said. Donovan has his own theory for this general fascination: "Steampunk promotes individual interest and involvement in traditional science, physics."
Perhaps in an era where culture has become so common in the virtual environment it is satisfactory to visualize an era of bold explorers and eccentric inventors, heroes and machinery that works with steam.
However Steampunk is not only appearance, but is an intermingling almost mythical of the wacky scientists and weird inventions, in a period when people rarely used their hands to invent or discover something. It is a subculture that uses virtual tools- blogs, Flickr pages for photos, Twitter and iPhones.
Steampunk doesn’t mean just to be fashionable. It means being a little nerdy, science interested, paying attention to details. It is to be both conservative and progressive, to look into the past and future in the same time. " Those interested in purchasing steampunk fashion and accessories can check out www.steampunkartifacts.com for more information.