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Have you ever been steampunked

Welcome to a subculture that is the aesthetic expression of a time traveling fantasy world, one that embraces music, film, design and now fashion, all inspired by the extravagantly inventive age of dirigibles and steam locomotives, brass diving bells and jar-shaped protosubmarines. First appearing in the late 1980s and early ’90s, steampunk has picked up momentum, making a transition from what used to be mainly a literary taste to a Web-propagated way of life.

The science-obsessed Victorians were the first to create speculative fantasies about what we might be able to achieve with technology: HG Wells's The Time Machine, Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth, or Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World. If this is all ringing a brass-and-mahogany-trimmed bell, that's because the once niche culture has slowly been seeping into the mainstream. Philip Pullman's Golden Compass is pretty steampunk, David Bowie's turn as Tesla in the 2006 film The Prestige was quite steampunk, and the Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Junior was very steampunk indeed.

Coming down to steampunk making an appearance in public art. Here it is [drum roll] : The Telectroscope.

One fine day giant drills appear simultaneously in the cities of London and New York. In the morning of the fourth day the drill bits on both sides of the Atlantic had been mysteriously replaced by a 37 feet long by 11 feet tall brass and wood Victorian–looking contraption. The object shared some similarities with an antique telescope and was connected to a huge brass dome. These contraptions were Telectroscopes. The telectroscope was the first non-working prototype of the television or videophone system. The term was used in the 19th century to describe science-based systems of distant seeing. 


In May–June 2008, artist Paul St George exhibited outdoor interactive video installations linking London and New York City as a fanciful telectroscope. According to the Telectroscope's back story, it used a transatlantic tunnel started by the artist's fictional great-grandfather, Alexander Stanhope St. George. In reality, the installation used two video cameras linked by a VPN connection to provide a virtual tunnel across the Atlantic. 




Peer into it and you can see people on the other side of the Atlantic. Wave at them, they wave back at you. Write on the whiteboard, and ask a question, and they will write back.
And then the Telectroscpoe disappeared.

Was it from the future, or from our past? Whatever the consensus, steampunk is a brilliant concoction of vintage love + futuristic obsession. I'm sold. If you need more info on this subculture, well, catch the next Mummy movie, grab an Asimov, or just google. Next time you buy that shirt with too many gold rivets, think of all the hidden connotations. Our urban village is full of codes and rituals.