On gadgets...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Everybody likes gadgets!
Steampunk has lots of gadgets. Machine like objects that appear to have some kind of use. Festooned with pipes, gauages, gears, wires levers and springs. In polished brass and copper, and tooled leather and varnished wood.

Some are elegant works of art like this clock by Roger Wood.

These elegant Steampunk iPod stands are decorative holders for real technological objects.

I love the IDEA of such gadgets and objects, they liven up our surroundings and give us a sense that maybe our Steampunk worlds can be real. BUT these objects are really a pastiche, which Wikipedia defines as:
A work of art, literature, film, music or architecture that closely imitates the work of a previous artist, usually distinguished from parody in the sense that it celebrates rather than mocks the work it imitates
These objects do not DO anything, yes the clocks run and the iPods work, but all the geegaws around them don't do anything except look cool.  I'm a technical kind of guy, as you no doubt have noticed, and I can't help trying to make sense of these objects. It's as if the technical side of my brain really wants all the decorations to actually work.

Take a gear train for example, often used by Steampunks as a decorative treatment on T-shirts, phone cases and letterhead. I always start to follow the gears around, seeing which one turns which way and when I see that the gears would be locked up there is almost a jarring sense of disappointment. The same goes for following pipes and gauges and wires.

It's not that I think all this decoration should be functional of course since it is simply a gloss put on for effect. Of course there is nothing wrong with that.  They are pastiches in the sense that they mimic the real elegance of form following function that Victorian machinery and gadgets have. Those real objects are the inspiration for our gadgets and even when their function is not obvious they still look like they could be functional. 
I have never been successful building such gadgets myself, mainly because I can't escape the feeling that the layout should somehow work. I am in awe of artists like Roger Wood who can build such beautiful objects and successfully pull off the decoration. And even though I will always try to figure out if all the bits fit together it doesn't change the fact that these gadgets are stylish objet d'art and definitely brighten up or Steampunk worlds. 

 Keep you sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.


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