Now open at Galerie des Machines, Paris Couture and curated by Olympe (OLYMPES Rhode), is Steampunk Moods, a celebration of steampunk and Victorian technology, with a touch of ecological commentary. The exhibition features art by Gem Preiz, Melusina Parkin, Haveit Neox and Bénédicte Petiet.
“Straddling the reincarnation of the past and a certain idea of the future, Steampunk is primarily an aesthetic current of literary origin before developing on a multitude of other media,” Olympe states in the introduction to the exhibition. “A temporal paradox, it mixes centuries of fiction, Jules Verne, [Herbert] George Wells, popular culture, films, comics and other video games.” The art presented within the gallery’s halls reflects this in a most eclectic mix of 2D art spanning the virtual and the physical, and which mixes what might be termed “traditional” steampunk imagery with more familiar Victoriana and interpretations of the future.
The ground floor of the gallery features a selection of Gem Preiz’s stunning fractal art, and the first glimpse into the future. It’s well established that I’m a major admirer of Gem’s work, and the pieces selected for this exhibit reflect why. Gem’s fractal art is hugely evocative in painting visions of the future; they encompass everything from cosmology through issues of ecology and human development, touching – richly so – on concepts of architecture, design and culture.
Several of these factors are touched upon within the thirteen images presented here – but so to is a sense of mechanisation. Several of the pieces have the look and feel of great engines – or parts of engines; others seem to suggest great cogs and wheels. There are also other reflections of steampunk: hints of lenses, twists of grill work and plating that are almost decorative in look and feel – the finery that can so often be found in more delicate pieces from the era. Each image is uniquely beautiful and – literally – multi-faceted, demonstrating Gem’s multi-panel approach to his art that allow him to offer marvellously high-resolution pieces of his original art.
On the floor above Gem’s exhibit is an extensive display of in-world photography by Melusina Parkin, featuring steampunk elements found throughout Second Life, both large and small and presented in a suitably metal-walled environment. Many of the images present objects and scenes in Melu’s familiar close-up style, focusing our attention on specifics, rather than a broader scene, while still conveying an entire story to a piece. Several of them present familiar steampunk themes – powered airships: both dirigible and boat-hulled. Propellers also feature, while there are hints of Verne and Wells to be found.The models of Battersea Power Station, dating from the 1930s, might seem a little incongruous. But given it is an iconic emblem to industrial power, it is somehow fitting.
Passing through the display of Melusina’s art brings visitors to a second hall, where Haveit Neox’s contribution can be found. This takes the form of an iteration of his installation, The Miniature Goal, first seen in 2014. Within it, Haveit asks, “What if our physical world shrunk in proportion to the resources we drain from it?” As I wrote back in 2014, this is a fascinating piece; here it perhaps offers a slightly different look at steampunk. The technology of the latter is somewhat based on the consumption of fossil fuels and other natural resources, consideration of the consequences are perhaps not so at odds with the core theme.
Above the floor featuring the physical world art of Bénédicte Petiet. Again, the canvas here is broader than what might be regarded as “traditional” steampunk. Like Melu, Bénédicte presents the most of his images in close-up: machines, wheels, pistons, gears, relays … all are presented here. So to are what might be considered elements from outside the realm of steampunk itself: cars from the recent past, and even street scenes. With the exception of the latter – which appear to be a mini-exhibit in their own right – the rest of the images suggest something almost “retro-futuristic”: the past we can recognise presented through a digital medium of their future.
All told, a multi-faceted exhibition, well worth exploring.
- Galerie des Machines (Paris Couture, rated: Moderate)