I was browsing NPR and came across an article on steampunk called “Did Steampunk Forget The Meaning Of The Word Dickensian?” by J.J. Sutherland. This post is not about the article, but about the wonderful comment made in response to the article by Eben Mishkin. It reads in part:
Steampunk is romanticized; it is not supposed to be historically accurate. Mr. Stross is trying to apply history to a genre that is about modernity. All of the punk genres are about the time they are written in, not the ones they depict. Steampunk is about here and now. We can have beautiful luxuries, enjoy wonders from afar, go anywhere and yet in large part we do not. We dress shabbily, speak without erudition, and our possessions are expected to break down. Steampunk is a solution to and metaphor for those problems: dress nicely, speak beautifully, recycle, and make your possessions heirloom quality.
(I have quoted the portion of the comment that is applicable. The full comment provides a detailed response to the article and can be read here: http://n.pr/1dvkxY3 )
Miskin’s comments struck a chord with me because I have recently become interested in minimalism. If you are unfamiliar with this movement, take a few moments to browse YouTube and look at the thousands of videos available on how to become a minimalist. There are almost as many videos on minimalism as there are on cute and/or grumpy cats.
I am not a person who can limit my possessions to 100 items or less, but I found that I liked the philosophy underlying minimalism: Only keep items in your life that add value or are beautiful. Buy less disposable items and invest in a small number of high quality useful items that will last.
In another article, “Toward an Understanding of the Steampunk Aesthetic” I describe how “brass, copper, wood, leather, glass materials are used, are tooled, to form steampunk items that are both beautiful and functional. Indeed, part of the aesthetic of this art form is not just in how an object looks, but also in its intended function. Decoration is not separate from form and function. The expression “you can’t just glue gears on something and call it steampunk” emphasizes this fact. The gears need to do something—need to fulfill some function in the design—to be part of the steampunk aesthetic” (http://bit.ly/1Edlksb ).
Reading Miskin’s comments made me realize that part of the aesthetic behind both steampunk and minimalism is the same: the focus on both exquisiteness and value; the focus on heirloom quality in a possession.
It is interesting that both of these movements are occurring now—that their popularity is peaking during a time when our society pushes “cheap and disposable” items on consumers. Is it any wonder that an ever-growing number of people are pushing back and opting for items that have both quality and beauty?
Please comment below and let me know what you think!