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Retro Futuristic

Retro Futurism & Design

The impact of retro-futurism in art is highly influenced by the Italian Futuristic Movement, which promoted the image of future societies linked to technology and machines. As Sian and Lucas (2018) explain, Retro-Futurism is considered a trend related to science and technology in the field of design, based on those representations of the future created in the past by literature and cinema. All those images of colossal cities with extremely tall buildings, robots, and vehicles capable of flying are generated from the concept of Retro-Futurism. The lack of a specific time or space associated to this concept, transforms it in an alternative vision of the existing reality. Those alternative realities, became a critical element in the development of science fiction and fantasy during the last centuries, generating a wide variety of alternative realities, spaces, and times that we keep using until today. Through Alberto Robida’s illustration, we can see a retro-futuristic image of the opera in space, where the year 2000 was imagined as a total advanced, technological, and spatial period. On the other side, the futuristic artists showed a different perception and vision of the future. As is shown through Giacomo Balla’s works, there is a common use of religion, science, and avant-garde art in part of his creations. The use of esoteric-scientific practices typical of alchemy (which had futuristic characteristics at its time) previously studied, is linked to ancient mythological elements such as the god Mercury represented by his personification as a planet. This piece, therefore, converts the ancient image of Mercury together with alchemical practices into a retro-futuristic vision of the past, which is drawn under the futuristic aesthetics of the Italian avant-garde. The use of robotics and technology became a source of inspiration for many fields as cinematography and literature. The film titled ‘Metropolis’, generates a retro-futuristic vision since it creates a reality of the future through its past perspective. In this film, the social confrontation between the working class and the intellectual class is discussed, a theme of the early 20th century but from a future space and time. Later, this imaginary became the inspiration for the creation of Steampunk Retro-Futurism and its importance in literature, cinema, and comics. Moreover, the great technological developments during the last half of the 20th Century became a source of inspiration for the creation of new futuristic realities.

Chesley Bonestell, Hubert lanzinger

The political changes during the last century brought tragic changes in society, politics, economy, and culture. As an example, the figure of Hitler in this work from Lazinger exposes the retro-futuristic bases of Nazism. As we can see, In the illustration above, Hitler is adorned under a glorified image of medieval aesthetics (armor, banner, and horse) that is nothing more than that idea used by the Nazis to generate a future based on the glory of the past. In opposition to Nazism, Stalinism and Communism generate their future by discarding the past. As it is shown in this illustration from the 1950s, a clear interpretation of the spatial future is generated during the ‘Space Age’. These images created during the decade of the 50’s served as inspiration for the generation of future concepts and retro-futuristic themes within science fiction during the next decades.

From: A Study on the Aesthetics Characteristics of Retro-Futuristic Fashion 

Alfonso N. Núñez Barranco · Antonio J. Domenech del Rio ∙ Youngsun Yoo