Friday, 4 December 2009

Of Steampunk

I am, rather naughtily, writing this at my desk in Duke Humfrey's, feeling in need of something rather less academic than a 1612 treatise on education to ease me back into working. I got back only half an hour ago from lunch with my mum and a friend of hers at Brasserie Blanc in Jericho. This is one of Raymond Blanc's restaurants, and although he now has a chain of them, the food is always excellent, and it is a good choice for when a trip to the rather more extravagant Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons isn't on the menu. (I have been to the latter twice now, once on my twenty-first birthday, and then for my mum's birthday the following year. Heavenly setting and, as you would expect for its two Michelin star rating, simply delicious food). Today I enjoyed some lovely mussels to start, followed by duck in a winter berry sauce, accompanied by some Kir and then some red wine. So you can see why I'm not exactly in the mood for studying, and am already looking forward to my trip with friends this evening to see A Serious Man at the Phoenix Picture House.

For now, however, I am casting my mind back to last Sunday, when, after a yummy lunch with friends at the wonderful Edamame, a couple of us went (via coffee and book browsing at Blackwells) to see the Steampunk exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science just across the road.

Steampunk is an intriguing mixture of old and new, as innovative artists imagine how modern technology might have looked had it been created using the science of Victorian times (I know, complicated). Thus, we were led into a zany, magical land full of objects that seemed straight out of a wonderful and darkly mysterious fairy-tale. This 'eye-pod' was one of my favourite comic reinterpretations of a modern classic:

I also loved the fantastical masks and goggles which are a common feature of Steampunk art:

I loved the Gothic look of some of the pieces, such as this intricate clock, where the machinery isn't hidden, but rather becomes an intrinsic part of its visual appeal:

Some of the workmanship on display was spectacular. This photograph doesn't really do justice to the amazing achievement of the craftsman in this creation:

There were some interesting fashion ideas, although I'm not sure that this little get-up would be quite my style:

This rather disturbing 'mechanical womb', complete with baby, was enough to make me think that pregnancy (which has always sounded a pretty creepy experience in itself to me ... hopefully time will change this!) might not be so bad after all, if this were the alternative:


Although it was also a little spooky, I did however love the dramatic look of one of the final pieces in the exhibition, even if I'd rather admire it in a gallery, than in my home:

The exhibition runs until 21 February 2010, and I highly recommend a visit if you're in Oxford before then. The Museum itself is also an intriguing place to wander around, but check out its opening hours on the website first, as they are a little erratic.

And now, I must turn away from the Victorians and delve deeper back into the past, giving at least a little of my time to Sir W and his friends before I head off to the cinema. For, as Sir W says in his 1601 essay 'Of Solitarinesse and Company', I do not want today's

'time to slide away without the memory of some good deedes'

alongside the recollection of my very good lunch!

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