Dieselpunk

i cant explain by shunya yamashita

Dieselpunk is a sub-genre of the pop surrealist art movement, as well as a budding subculture, that combines the aesthetics of the interbellum period through the early 1950s with postmodern technology and sensibilities. First coined in 2001 as a marketing term by game designer Lewis Pollak to describe his role-playing game ‘Children of the Sun,’ dieselpunk has grown to describe a distinct style.

The name ‘dieselpunk’ is a derivative of the 1980s science fiction genre cyberpunk, and is used to represent the time period – or ‘era’- when diesel-based locomotion was the main technological focus of Western culture. The ‘-punk’ suffix attached to the name is representative of the counterculture nature of the genre with regards to its opposition of contemporary aesthetics. The term also refers to the tongue-in-cheek name given to a similar cyberpunk derivative, ‘steampunk,’ which focuses on science fiction set within the Victorian era.

Dieselpunk isn’t limited to the historical events of the diesel era for inspiration. Another important aspect of dieselpunk is a characteristic termed ‘decodence’ (a portmanteau of ‘deco’ and ‘decadence’), embraces the styles and technologies of the era; it rejoices in a prolonged Jazz Age ambiance characterized by great enthusiasm and hopes about the future.

Alternative history and World War II features prominently in dieselpunk literature. One of the most successful dieselpunk novels is ‘Fatherland,’ written by Robert Harris, in which Germany defeated Continental Europe and the Soviet Union in World War II, with Great Britain as a German puppet state. The result is a Cold War between the United States and Germany rather than with the USSR.

Dieselpunk can be divided into two primary themes or styles: Ottensian and Piecraftian. The dividing line between the two themes is commonly acknowledged as the start of World War II. ‘Piecraftian’ after its proponent author Piecraft, focuses on the aesthetics of the world wars and speculates on how human culture could theoretically cease to evolve due to constant, widespread warfare. According to Piecraft this theme continues the aesthetics of the diesel era into later periods of history by describing a world where survival (largely based on a reliance on diesel power) is placed above aesthetical evolution (as seen in such dystopian movies such as ‘Mad Max’).

A second theme, named ‘Ottensian’ after its proponent author Nick Ottens, focuses on a setting where the decadent aesthetics and utopian philosophies of the American ‘Roaring Twentie’ continued to evolve unhindered by war or economic collapse. Ottensian dieselpunk fiction is primarily concerned with a positive vision of technology, where the utopian ideals predicted by the World’s Fairs of the times came to light. As a result Ottensian dieselpunk incorporates an enthusiasm for the predictions about the future, and often shares elements with retro-futurism.

With regard to cinema, dieselpark combines the tropes, character archetypes, and settings of diesel era fiction genres such as Serial Adventure, Noir, Pulp, and War with postmodern storytelling techniques and cinematography. Some commonly referenced examples of dieselpunk cinema include: ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,’ ‘Dark City,’ ‘Rocketeer,’ the ‘Indiana Jones’ movie series, ‘Sin City,’ ‘Eraserhead,’ and ‘Brazil.’ Even the popular film ‘Star Wars’ has been noted as having strong dieselpunk influences, as it drew heavily on pulp and WWII iconography but mixed them with futuristic settings.

Famous inspirations for dieselpunk cinema include ‘Metropolis’ and ‘Things To Come,’ thanks to their period visions of utopian culture and technology.

Though widely labeled as cyberpunk, the neo-noir movie ‘Blade Runner’ may also be described as dieselpunk due its strong element of decodence. Tim Burton’s 1989 movie ‘Batman’ has also been referenced as a dieselpunk movie, ‘The citizens, cops, people and the black-and-white television looks like it takes place in 1939.’

Dieselpunk art ‘takes an interest in various bizarre machines, full of esoteric levers, cracked-glass meters – all visually intense and pretty sinister-looking, when photographed.’ Japanese artist Shunya Yamashita created one of the definitive examples of dieselpunk art with his work ‘I Can’t Explain.’

A similar, related pop surrealist art movement, which overlaps with dieselpunk somewhat, is atompunk, which relates to the pre-digital period of 1945-1965, including mid-century Modernism, the Atomic Age and Space Age, Communism and paranoia in the USA along with Soviet styling, underground cinema, Googie architecture, the Sputnik, Mercury and other early space programs, superhero fiction, the rise of the US military/industrial powers and the fall-out of Chernobyl.

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2 Comments to “Dieselpunk”

  1. I never heard of this movement but I like the work.

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