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POSTDIGITALISM “Steampunk” and “E-coco” in 21st century design

• Kasimir Malevich, Black Square, 1914-15

A machine for living?

Le Corbusier, Villa Savoye, Poissy-sur-Seine, France, 1929-31

Less is more? Miesian minimalism

Marcel Breuer, Wassily-Chair, Bauhaus, 1926

“Magiler� series storage units Ikea USA, 2005

Modern European Functionalism

…a noble simplicity and calm grandeur.

Heroic and affirmative: 21st century American corporate style?

Ulysse Nardin Chairman Mechanical Smartphone

The Hybrid?


Craftsmanship, materiality, splendour

The furnished man

Datamancer, 2007


USB Stick?

Melted brass, 2007

Modding or physical hacking?

10,000 year clock “slow design”

Long Now Foundation: A “slow design� Manifesto

Longevity with occasional maintenance, the clock should reasonably be expected to display the correct time for the next 10,000 years. Maintainability The clock should be maintainable with bronze-age technology. Transparency It should be possible to determine operational principles of the clock by close inspection. Evolvability It should be possible to improve the clock with time.

Scalability It should be possible to build working models of the clock from table-top to monumental size using the same design.

2009 artist Tim Wetherell created a large wall piece for Questacon (The National Science and Technology centre in Canberra,

What do the pendulum clocks, so much in fashion, resemble; which have neither basis not console, but seem to spring out of the wainscot . . . those stags, dogs, huntsmen, or Chinese figures, which they dispose in so odd a manner about the dial-plate; are they its natural ornament? AbbĂŠ le Blanc Letter to Comte de Caylus 1737-44

Rococo cartel clock attributed to Jacques Caffieri France c.1750

Mantle clock Maker unknown French c. 1745-1750

Mantel clock Attributed to Jean-Pierre Latz French c. 1730’s

Casket (coffres de toilette) Maker unknown France 1755-1760

Cinderella Table Jeroen Verhoeven The Netherlands, 2004

Heatwave radiator Joris Laarman, The Netherlands 2003


Modernist • • • • • •

Rectilinear, geometric Restrained and rational Moral and rational Reductive and exclusive Academic homogenous

E-coco/Steampunk • • • • • •

Curvalinear, organic Exuberant and emotional Amoral and irrational Synthetic and inclusive Artisanal heterogenous

Victorian science fiction Rococo Revivalism

Jules Veerne, Captain Nemo and Nautilus

Dr. Grordborts Infallible Aether Oscillators

analytical engine Charles Babbage, 1837

Analog computer?

The Telectroscope

Telectroscope 2006, Paul St. George

Elements of Steampunk • • • • • • • • •

Bottom-up design repurposed DIY Aura/authenticity Protoindustrial Nostalgic Postmodern? Postdigital Critical?

Why? • • • • • •

Dissolution with homogeneity of mass market goods (iphone) Reemphasis on the physical world Pre-digital and pre-electrical nostalgia Reconnection with embedded cultural meaning Reconstitution of “aura” Antidote to digital-age attention deficits

Week 4: Steampunk and the rE-coco  

investigation of the steampunk movement in design

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