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Author Topic: Decadence and steampunk ?  (Read 627 times)
morozow
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« on: March 28, 2016, 11:51:09 pm »

I have a question.

And as to the relationship between steampunk and decadence. Decadence as a cultural phenomenon of the Victorian/Edwardian era timewise

At first glance, this opposite phenomenon.

Decadence - the decay and decline, melancholy and spleen.

Steampunk - progress, steel gears, full and strong people.

But maybe I'm wrong? Can't see it? And judge it superficially?


modern Russian decadent


« Last Edit: March 29, 2016, 10:25:28 am by morozow » Logged

Sorry for the errors, rudeness and stupidity. It's not me, this online translator. Really convenient?
Siliconous Skumins
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« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2016, 03:24:59 am »

That is a complex area to discuss in regards to the relation to the genre of Steampunk. However, I take it you mean 'steampunk' as lifestyle, rather than just in general?

Certainly the literary side has covered 'decadence' numerous times in many different ways, and the aesthetic side of steampunk does hold a certain love of grime, rust, decay and coal smoke, and also a strong visual link with industrial design and architecture. But the steampunk lifestyle is highly individual - everyone has their own ideal and interpretation. It's true that many do tend to dress in the finer clothing of the Victorian era, rather than the vastly more common 'working class' garb of the period. But there are those who prefer the "post apocalyptic wasteland" style of steampunk, and their clothing and house furnishings tend to display that trait.

The reason for the apparent disparity of the steampunk clothing is actually simple - we as humans all aspire for the finer things in life, it's not so fun to be downtrodden and poor, and thus most prefer the stylised clothing of the Victorian gentry (even the actual Victorian poor would wear a tophat if they could source one, albeit second or third hand and probably very worn and tatty). The thing with Steampunk is that it is supposed to be FUN, a source of enjoyment and escapism and an alternative social culture. Many here who dress like a Victorian gent or lady are not usually in a real world financial position to be an actual well dressed part of the uppercrust of society. However in the steampunk world, they can be whatever they chose to be.

Is there decadence in Steampunk - yes! But it is a core structure that is not always plainly obvious.


That is my take on it at least, others may feel different...  Wink
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Sammiannnz
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« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2016, 09:41:38 am »

Morozow,
From a personal perspective, I get dressed up in steampunk gear to be looked at. If I go out to a convention (steampunk convention or an event like comic con) I want to be looked at, and talked to about my costume. I want people to come up to me and say, "Who are you? Where do you come from? How did you make the pistol, it looks fantastic?"
In this scenario, the best way I find is to dress up in something unusual, and something that looks like a lot of work has gone into it. Now as a woman, I find a well decorated skirt and a corset, along with a few brass knick-nacks reall do the trick in catching people's eyes. I also enjoy it.
As Siliconous said, escapism is a thing that happens, and most steampunk people dress up because they can and because they want to be somebody they're not. There's plenty of more workmen like persona's but people don't use them. Even my father, who refuses to dress up except for formal dinners loves a tophat and tails when dressing up as steampunk.

I have nothing against being the beggar in the street, or the working class washerwoman, but there's nothing special about it. There's nothing that defines my character and my outfit as decidedly 'me' and as something I'm not. I work for a living, so when I get to pretend, I end up somebody who doesn't have to work, but does because she likes it. I get to add class and random objects to my costume and persona because my persona is wealthy and can afford to carry a gun, whereas if I were the beggar woman in the street, it's unlikely I'd have a gorgeous wooden and copper pistol because if I stole one, I'd probably sell it for food money.

Personal opinions here, I know many people may have their own. I think the main reason is because we can, we will. As a community, things like the 'lower classes' do make us think (or I would hope so) but as a form of entertainment and escapism, the upper class fills tht role more suitably.
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morozow
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« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2016, 09:47:54 am »

I think there is a problem with the translation.

I here about it:

Decadence was the name given to a number of late nineteenth-century writers who valued artifice over the earlier Romantics' naïve view of nature. Some of them triumphantly adopted the name, referring to themselves as Decadents. For the most part, they were influenced by the tradition of the Gothic novel and by the poetry and fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, and were associated with Symbolism and/or Aestheticism.

This concept of decadence dates from the eighteenth century, especially from Montesquieu, and was taken up by critics as a term of abuse after Désiré Nisard used it against Victor Hugo and Romanticism in general. A later generation of Romantics, such as Théophile Gautier and Charles Baudelaire took the word as a badge of pride, as a sign of their rejection of what they saw as banal "progress." In the 1880s a group of French writers referred to themselves as Decadents. The classic novel from this group is Joris-Karl Huysmans' Against Nature, often seen as the first great decadent work, though others attribute this honor to Baudelaire's works.

In Britain and Ireland the leading figure associated with the Decadent movement was Irish writer, Oscar Wilde. Other significant figures include Arthur Symons, Aubrey Beardsley and Ernest Dowson.

The Symbolist movement has frequently been confused with the Decadent movement. Several young writers were derisively referred to in the press as "decadent" in the mid-1880s. Jean Moréas' manifesto was largely a response to this polemic. A few of these writers embraced the term while most avoided it. Although the aesthetics of Symbolism and Decadence can be seen as overlapping in some areas, the two remain distinct.
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Sammiannnz
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« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2016, 10:03:33 am »

I think there is a problem with the translation.

That poses a very different question than the one I understood it to be, you may way to edit your original post to just clarify this point. I've put 2 answer below for the two possible interpretations of the question, I hope I at least partially help you answer the question you originally posed.

As for the question, now, as I understand it.
I would say it depends on how you frame it. If you are referring particularly to written works , I would say that steampunk could fit into the category of decadence, if you wanted it to. There are quite a few people that, when dressing up and creating works use a 'post apocalyptic' steampunk, which I feel certainly fits the style. A land where progress was marred by say a thermonuclear war (because I've been on a Fallout 4 buzz recently). Then the decline and the melancholy would certainly fit into this sort of category. It really depends on your framing. Steampunk as we know it is generally quite flexible, providing you justify it. For example, if you take the nuclear war as your basis point then justify why it happened. Excellent. Justified, sorted. You can now frame this steampunk reality however you please.

If you are referring to the styles of literature as decadence and romantic era writing, both in the Victorian/Edwardian era timewise (where steampunk is set) then you're posing a very different question. Decadence and Romanticism were always at odds with each other, and neither fitted the era 100%. As writing is often about escapism, it was always one (or more) steps removed for the actual reality of the world. As steampunk and forward thinking isn't as prevalent in the victorian/edwardian eras as we as steampunk people make it out to be, the conflict between the forward progression and the decadence and melancholy of that style wouldn't have been at odds as much as we in the modern day steampunk community may think.

Personal opinion anyway. I hope I've helped answer your question? If I have, then make sure to clarify your original post even if you just put "EDIT:" at the bottom with the clarification because it's not as clear right now. Smiley
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Clym Angus
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« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2016, 04:00:43 pm »

Is it "on the palette" as a look, idea or idiom that "could" be drawn from Victorian society? Well, yes. Yes it is. Is it advisable to do so? Or should it be relegated to the bin along with rickets, work houses and children up chimneys? Well, for starters how legal is it to be decadent in the modern age? Secondly how much damage is being decadent going to cause you physically and psychologically? How badly is it going to harm other people?

Will you be "playing" at being decadent or actually being so? As with any philosophy that you may wish to annex into your world view it is important to look into the inherent cost of doing so. Were there decadent Victorians? Certainly. Did they pay for it? Indeed. Crux of the matter is, you are responsible.

We'll have none of this "Steampunk made me do it" balls. Not that I'm suggesting you would but you get the point. As a side note I admire your balls. Russia has traditionally harboured a low opinion of its bon viveurs. Taking the low wall and long barrel approach to fixing the problem. Now these lost histories can be applied by the modern decadent in two possible ways;

1) The torch has been past, you are the voice that was cruelly taken from others.
2) Be mindful of your surroundings and watch your back. For the wolves are not dead merely asleep.

To answer your question. You draw and mix from the palette of Victoriana, but your responsible for the colours you make and how you coat the canvas.

Seem reasonable?
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2016, 06:15:56 am »

Dear  ladies and gentlemen, if we're talking about Steampunk being related to the literary Aesthetic Movement, then, isn't this definition of decadence we are imagining in the few posts above far too severe?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decadent_movement

It should not be surprising, Mr. Morozow, that our own Steampunks are fumbling with the definition of Decadence. For even in the 19th. C the definition was rather nebulous! For more details see the link below.

http://www.english.uwosh.edu/roth/Decadence.htm

Quote
The attempt to state precisely what Decadence and Aestheticism mean has led numerous literary historians to dash themselves on the semantic rocks, if you will. For most modern critics, the term "Decadence" -- when used to describe certain Victorian works--does not carry negative connotations.

In the 1890s, however, it generally implied marked condemnation and on mnay occasions was used to characterize the artist's moral and spiritual depravity. In 1893, Arthur Symons turned its negative suggestions into praise by describing Decadence as a "beautiful and interesting disease."

As expected, the term started to lable both the artists and their works. A similar phenomenon surrounds the term "Aesthete," which in the 1880s evoked visions of effeminate poets holding various floral displays in characteristic poses (see below), as in the case of Oscar Wilde, who welcomed the label.

Aestheticism implies certain attitudes rather than forms of behavior, attitudes associated wtih the concern over aesthetic form and experience divorced from moral judgment.


The idea behind the Decadence Movement was to rebel against the Naturalism that aimed to represent life in it's entire gritty self.  In other words, Naturalism would perhaps be somewhat analogous to Cyberpunk, with its grizzly hyper-realistic dystopian panoramas. Whereas Steampunk Decadence might be more about the "decorating" aspect of the movement, shall we say?

Are we talking about the Steampunk Decadence aesthetic existing for art's sake, free of any purpose but art itself?  If so, then I'd advance that wearing the corset and the top hat for the sake of art itself is more along the lines of Decadence. If we take this definition to the extreme, of course, pure decadence would be equivalent to "glue a cog and call it Steampunk."

I must warn that such a definition of Steampunk as Decadent Art for it's Own Sake, might incite several branches of Steampunk to protest in anger. Particularly those DIY's, makers, and political survivalists who aim to make Steampunk a strictly practical art, where form strictly follows function - again, the same goals as Naturalism.

One can imagine the protest coming from makers trying to be precise in their historical construction styles and materials, implementing working Steam engines, and carefully avoiding the use of Philips screws. Not to mention how truly dangerous survivalists can be, insisting that their contraptions must be able to be 100% functional, and preferably able to function in defiance of local laws - characteristics we all know very well are essential in case of a zombie apocalypse...

Could a Decadent Steampunk be somewhat similar to one of those ladies or gentlemen who prefer to dress up? The former Goths who "found" the colour brown? Is the Fashionista Steampunk in fact a Decadent Steampunk?

I remain at your service,

Admiral J. Wilhelm
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morozow
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« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2016, 08:21:50 pm »

Thanks for answering my questions.

So many subtleties and nuances that the translator explodes. БАХ! As my brain. БАБАХ!
And I think you do not fully understand.
But it's even better! This confusion generates new meanings.

I think I got the answer to your question in Wikipedia - A later generation of Romantics, such as Théophile Gautier and Charles Baudelaire used the word proudly, to represent their rejection of what they considered banal "progress."

But I'll tell you how everything was. I will try to write clearly.

I am the owner and all that jazz, an information site dedicated to strange activities. I saw the announcement of the event the Russian decadents (see photo in first post).

And I thought, steampunk and decadents it somewhere. But it is opposite.

Was the Victorian era. Was progress, industrialization, the triumph of human genius. There were social problems.

This era has given rise to fans that believed in progress and development (Jules Verne, H. G. wells). They were the forerunners of steampunk.

This era gave rise to the skeptics - decadents.

Two opposite responses to the challenges of the Victorian era.

Here's what I got.

I remembered the book of the philosopher Oswald Spengler "The decline of the West". Will have to reread, there's an interesting explanation - "In the financial report of the transport company, more poetry, than in ...." (something like this). If I'm not mistaken.

With regard to the character of the decadent world of steampunk.

It would probably be funny. Dress like Oscar Wilde. To come to the festival of steampunkers. And start to preach..... Not the gears in the happiness. The world is in decline. Mechanisms while you're wasting your life. Life is short and we must enjoy. And all of that. I'll think on this idea.
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Sammiannnz
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« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2016, 06:52:41 am »

I know exactly how you feel about the translator, it is so difficult if you do not speak the language well because you miss all the nuances.

I'm glad you managed to find an answer (even with my own ineptitude at figuring our your question).

With regard to the character of the decadent world of steampunk.

It would probably be funny. Dress like Oscar Wilde. To come to the festival of steampunkers. And start to preach..... Not the gears in the happiness. The world is in decline. Mechanisms while you're wasting your life. Life is short and we must enjoy. And all of that. I'll think on this idea.

This would be very funny, and if you ever do it, I would love to hear how people react and what your costume is. Because in a way decadence and steampunk are similar but at the same time completely different so trying to put the two together at an event would lead to some interesting results. Smiley
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Hurricane Annie
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« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2016, 08:41:01 am »



There has been decadence  in all era.  For  the wealthy Victorian there may have been a relative opulence  in material possessions  and life style. For the average tenement tenant or doss house habitue  life was drab and miserable.

As others have pointed out though , it's more fun and glamorous  to be a remittance man or lady scientist
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Clym Angus
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« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2016, 04:34:18 pm »

It would probably be funny. Dress like Oscar Wilde. To come to the festival of steampunkers. And start to preach..... Not the gears in the happiness. The world is in decline. Mechanisms while you're wasting your life. Life is short and we must enjoy. And all of that. I'll think on this idea.

Convince a man he is sick and the cure sells itself.....
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