Bruce McCall says in this hilarious and very interesting TED presentation that Nostalgia is the most utterly useless human emotion. I don’t totally agree but I see the point. Nostalgia if taken to extreme becomes a mild case of depression and self-deception. The past is never as great or as bad as it seems and nor will the future be as wonderful or as terrible as we can imagine. Setting that aside, please check out this amazing lecture, McCall is a very witty and gifted artist.
I am fascinated by McCall’s style of art, it touches on many of my passions, science fiction, mid-century design and art that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a mixture of the low-brow art movement with a dash of Norman Rockwellesque technique.
Here are the descriptions of his made-up but wonderful terms, these are things that designers and science fiction writers can and should use when it is appropriate to their work:
Retro-futurism: Looking back to see how yesterday saw tomorrow… and they are always hilariously wrong. Peeked in the 1930’s. Automotive retro-futurism is a big component of his work, the way the past saw cars looking in the future… fins galore!
- Techno-Archaeology: Digging back and finding past miracles that never happened, usually for good reason, that is they wouldn’t have worked or been a disaster… flying cars.
- Faux-Nostalgia: Achingly sentimental yearning for a time that never happened.
- Hyperbolic Overkill: A way of taking exaggeration to the absolute ultimate limit just for the fun of it.
- Shamelessly Cheap: A joke that has no meaning but is strangely funny in and of itself.
- Urban-Absurdism: Making life in New York (and city life in general) even weirder than it is.
The most important thing that McCall said about this style of art (and literature I assume) is that authenticity adds immeasurably to serious nonsense. That is the world presented in Faux-Nostalgia has to look and feel real. The machinery, characters, general look and world have to breathe. In this vein Alan Moore and the many artists he works with do this better than any one else, to see what I mean check out The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (though please skip the film). Other things that fall in to this same general category: