Saturday, September 06, 2008

Tate at Pentimenti: Steampunk

Last night I went to see my good friend's Tim Tate make his Philadelphia solo gallery debut at Philly's Pentimenti Gallery. Since the show was installed a few days ago, a review has already come out and art critic R. B. Strauss of the Philadelphia Weekly Press already has a superb review of the start of the new art season and writes about Tate:

"Video Reliquaries: A Look Inside a Digital Mind" yields tight surprises by Tim Tate. What is this artist? Sculptor, videographer, glass artist? Why all three, of course.

Various handmade glass vessels, like weird scientific instruments of well over a hundred and fifty years ago, contain tiny video monitors. Because of the work’s old feel, it resonates as steampunk, a thread of science fiction where the Victorian impetus holds fast a greater melancholy than we had, amid a strangely alien technology.

Indeed, the overall Victorian feel here is only partly deliberate, as this is not our Victorian era but one of a parallel or alternate universe that could be fascist, with the monitors spy devices, and with the lenses feeding them everywhere.
Strauss set of new eyes looking at Tate's latest work does indeed reveal a new and really appropriate label for Tate's work: Steampunk!

Of course! Steampunk!

According to the New York Times,steampunk is
"a subculture that is the aesthetic expression of a time-traveling fantasy world, one that embraces music, film, design and now fashion, all inspired by the extravagantly inventive age of dirigibles and steam locomotives, brass diving bells and jar-shaped protosubmarines. First appearing in the late 1980s and early ’90s, steampunk has picked up momentum in recent months, making a transition from what used to be mainly a literary taste to a Web-propagated way of life.

To some, “steampunk” is a catchall term, a concept in search of a visual identity. “To me, it’s essentially the intersection of technology and romance,” said Jake von Slatt, a designer in Boston and the proprietor of the Steampunk Workshop (, where he exhibits such curiosities as a computer furnished with a brass-frame monitor and vintage typewriter keys.

That definition is loose enough to accommodate a stew of influences, including the streamlined retro-futurism of Flash Gordon and Japanese animation with its goggle-wearing hackers, the postapocalyptic scavenger style of “Mad Max,” and vaudeville, burlesque and the structured gentility of the Victorian age. In aggregate, steampunk is a trend that is rapidly outgrowing niche status."
And, without ever attempting to enter this retro-futurism movement, clear new critical eyes hit the nail on the head with they label Tate's new works as an unplanned new member of this movement.

See a short video of the opening below:

In Afghanistan

Starting September 10th and through October 4th, 2008, the Royal Netherlands Embassy and the Embassy of Afghanistan will present a stirring collection of images that document everyday life in Afghanistan. The photo exhibit by Dutch photographer Hans Stakelbeek, entitled In Afghanistan, will be displayed for the first time in the United States at the Touchstone Gallery in Washington, D.C.

According to the press release, Hans Stakelbeek was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to document the reconstruction of Afghanistan during ongoing efforts to restore peace and stability to the country. Stakelbeek made four trips there, photographing in Kabul and Uruzgan, as well as other remote areas. Stakelbeek’s photos capture the essence of the people, the country, and the reconstruction efforts.

“The Royal Netherlands Embassy is proud to partner with the Embassy of Afghanistan to bring the ‘In Afghanistan’ photo exhibition to Washington,” said Dutch Ambassador RenĂ©e Jones-Bos. “As partners in the reconstruction effort, we are moved by the strength and tenacity of the Afghan people, and their commitment to rebuild their country. These images capture that strength and hope.” added Ambassador Jones-Bos.