The latest edition of the Astral Dreams project, curated by Jack Davies and Mina Arcana, opened its doors at the start of June 2019 to present 500 Leonardo “celebrating 500 years since the death of Leonardo da Vinci in [a] Steampunk setting”.
Featuring art and models by Nabreji Aabye, Caly Applewhyte (Calypso Applewhyte), Sergio Delacruz, Desy Magic, Lara Tommaso and Ciottolina Xue, this is something of an installation in two parts: a celebration of the works of Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, the most famous polymath of the Italian Renaissance, and a selection of steampunk inspired displays.
The setting is a series of island floating in the sky dome, the largest of which features the Leonardo Museum and the landing point. In the grounds are marvellous models of some of da Vinci’s inventions: notably his proposal for a wheeled fighting machine, and his aerial screw.
While neither of these was built in da Vinci’s time (and the fighting machine would have been impractical under battlefield conditions), the fighting machine contained a number of elements and ideas still found in modern tanks and armoured vehicles, while the aerial screw is regarded as an antecedent of the helicopter. Sharing the outdoor space with both is a model of his catapult, all three beautifully modelled by Sergio Delacruz.
Within the museum building is a broader celebration of da Vinci’s work, featuring reproductions of some of his paintings and his anatomical sketches, together with more models and reproductions of drawings of some of this other inventions – most notably his flying machine, celebrated in both model and drawing. Information in Italian on all of these, and the models outside, can be obtained via web links supplied by touching individual drawings / paintings or the easels alongside the models. In this, the display may well have been made more accessible to a visiting audience by providing language options in the links.
Just outside the door to the museum building are teleports that will take visitors to the installations by Nabreji Aabye, Caly Applewhite, Desy Magic, Lara Tommaso and Ciottolina Xue. These all focus more on the steampunk element of the installation, offering both 2D or 3D works by the respective artists. The teleports come in two flavours: a plain disk system that will auto-teleport you around the artists’ installations, and a menu-driven teleport unit (with a large floating sign) that allows you to choose your destination.
500 Leonardo is a curious mix; on the one hand the celebration of da Vinci’s life and the installation celebrating steampunk and art stand distinctly apart; on the other, they are somewhat linked.
As an engineer, inventor and visionary, de Vinci saw far ahead of his time, developing tools and technology that were far ahead of their time, from winches to the aforementioned fighting and flying machines; so too is steampunk associated with invention and machines. Da Vinci was also a cartographer, a science associated with exploration, and steampunk often encompasses the idea of exploration and discovery. I also have little doubt that da Vinci himself would be fascinated by the whole steampunk genre and its inventiveness as it sits within its 19th century framework.
- Astral Dreams Project: 500 Leonardo (LEA 8, rated: Moderate)