Monstrous anachronism stew
Our modern culture is deeply in love with the anachronistic. An anachronism is any object, abstract or concrete, that has been displaced from its original context. A sword on a modern battlefield or a machine gun on the battlements of a castle, these are physical anachronisms. The term can have a pejorative edge, but reimagining and recycling the past has always been a tool for cultural advancement and it has become a particular touchstone for us, one that grows only more and more complex as referential layers are added.Credit: Threadless - Dhany Fathur R
Pictured is "American Steampunk," a design by Dhany Fathur Rochman, which you can purchase at Threadless Tees. The original, from which it is inspired, is Grant Wood's American Gothic, which is below.
Credit: Friends of American Art Collection
Wood's painting was inspired by the Dibble House in Eldon, Iowa, which is an architectural example of Gothic Revival, specifically, Carpenter Gothic.
The Gothic, as an artistic expression, develops out of Romanticism and the Romantique. In terms of literature, there was a new emphasis placed on the horrific, a fascination with it. In terms of architecture, Gothic buildings made increased use of light through dramatic arches, symbolizing a reach for divinity and enlightenment.
Cyberpunk, deeply entwined with goth culture, arose from new technology. It wondered if an overuse of certain technologies would begin to supplant the human condition in horrific ways. Steampunk, another emante goth vein, arose after Cyberpunk, but asked questions about technology in older times through retrofuturism. Cyberpunk went dark, like literature, Steampunk went romantic, like architecture.
What am I getting at? All of these things are tangled together, producing expressions that are somehow always hovering along similar lines, reacting off each other, yearning for the romantic, the divine, the enlightened, through dark exploration of the horrific. They have different measures of which, but there is always a monstrous theme. Monsters should be of interest to any good counterculture because the whole point of a counterculture is to COUNTER the mainstream by becoming something that the mainstream could not produce. This is monstrous.
Monsters are interesting because the origin of the word is not clear. It was meant to imply something that was naturally aberrant and wrong, but there are connotations that show that the word could also mean "demonstration." The poet Seneca took this one step further by using monstrous as a kind of tragic reveal. The monstrous is a demonstration of something you don't want to see.
So, what is it, then? By digging up the past and constantly churning it over itself, maybe we are looking for the monstrous in all senses of the word. There is something constantly amiss with ourselves, with our cultures, because there is always a tension that we long to resolve. Tension is what drives stories and all good art tells a good story.
My long winded point: keep up the good work.