Characteristics of Retro-Futurism Art

Written by edward lincoln
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Characteristics of Retro-Futurism Art
Retro-futuristic art has had a lasting impact on culture. (Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Retro-futurism is a genre and artistic style used in film, video games, design and architecture. It incorporates a combination of real and imagined artistic themes, technological devices and science-fiction elements pertaining to the possible future as seen from the inhabitants of past eras. Modern day depictions of retro-futurism blend together revived elements from the past with current sensibilities, producing an alternate vision of the future.

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Film

Movies and television shows revolving around the concept of retro-futurism have inspired the imaginations of artists and scientists for the better part of the last century. "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," a 2004 film set in a futuristic 1939, is presented in pseudo-technicolor and superimposes live action scenes onto different backdrops. Both of these methods are reminiscent of vintage movie production and contribute to a retro-futuristic aesthetic. The original "Star Trek" series is perhaps the most prominent example from television, airing in 1966 and featuring space age equipment and vessels made from a mixture of mid-20th century and minimalist futuristic designs.

Video Games

The video game industry has produced several hit game series revolving around the concept of retro-futurism. "BioShock," developed by Irrational Games and released in 2007, takes place in a 1960s underwater city built in an early 20th century geometric Art Deco style powered by advanced geothermic technology. "Fallout 3," developed by Bethesda Game Studios and released in 2008, takes place after a nuclear disaster in the year 2277. Despite its 23rd century setting, the game is propagated with 1950s era bomb shelter architecture and pop culture imagery. Both games feature the heavy use of concrete, aluminium and steel indicative of the industrial age.

Design

Retro-futuristic clothing designs consist of durable materials and minimalist motifs. Clothing worn by characters in the 1966 "Star Trek" television series was usually simplistic with large areas of solid colours, reflective materials and mechanisms based on utilitarian practicality. Decorative patterns, if any, are usually geometric in nature. Retro-futuristic furniture tends to shy away from detailed flourishes of classical furniture in favour of what is practical and efficient to produce, such as single-piece furniture units and geometric shelving construction.

Architecture

Retro-futuristic architecture is heavily inspired by the space and atomic ages of the mid-20th century. Otherwise known as Googie architecture, buildings in this style were created with a durable steel construction, upswept roofs, domes and the use of decorative neon lighting. Large windows were formed to take the place of walls and were integrated into the structures of buildings to reinforce their linear appearance. Chrome was a popular material as it invoked a sense of space travel which was beginning to be explored at the time. Examples of retro-futuristic architecture include Disneyland's Tomorrowland, the original Denny's restaurant in Lakewood, California and the Seattle Space Needle.

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